Monthly Archives: November 2010

November 22nd, 1963: The Day The World Took A Very Bad Turn

Warren Kozak reminds us of the real Jack Kennedy (as opposed to the peacenik invented by the 60’s left) who made no apologies for America’s military power:

For many Americans over the age of 55, Nov. 22 rarely passes without a wistful sense of sadness and the thought: What if? But today, 47 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the initial feeling of shock and disbelief has long since been replaced by the sense that the world took a very bad turn on that day in 1963—one that we have never quite been able to correct.

An obscure tape clip has recently surfaced on YouTube that offers no better proof of this redirection. It’s almost as if a voice from our past has come back to guide us through the most serious national security threat we face today.

The date is Sept. 25, 1961. Kennedy is standing in front of the United Nations General Assembly. And we hear a president of the United States assert a direct and unapologetic definition of who we are as Americans as he offers a response to, of all things, terrorism. The tape clip has a grainy quality, but the words are timeless:

“Terror is not a new weapon,” the young president tells the world body. “Throughout history, it has been used by those who could not prevail either by persuasion or example. But inevitably, they fail either because men are not afraid to die for a life worth living, or because the terrorists themselves came to realize that free men cannot be frightened by threats and that aggression would meet its own response. And it is in the light of that history that every nation today should know; be he friend or foe, that the United States has both the will and the weapons to join free men in standing up to their responsibilities.”

“Free men standing up to their responsibilities”—there is a lasting quality in those seven words that harks back to who we are as a people, to our War of Independence and our frontier days. It describes 18-year-old Marines on Pacific islands and in Afghanistan today. And it carries even more weight because this president, 18 years earlier, had almost lost his own life as a Navy officer on a patrol torpedo boat, PT-109, during World War II. He served his country in war despite his privileged background because, like most men of his generation, he believed in freedom and standing up to aggression. In other words, he took responsibility.

“The United States has both the will and the weapons.” No apology for our strength. No apology for our past. No apology for who we are, and yet the world still admires him.

Because of the location of the speech—the U.N.—the tape clip seems to emerge from some parallel universe when one considers the bitter irony of everything that followed Kennedy at that same podium.

Only 13 years later, the General Assembly would treat Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to a wild and sustained ovation as that chief inventor of modern terror compared himself to the men who founded America. Thanks to an alliance of the Soviet bloc, the nonaligned nations and the Arab world, Arafat was accorded the honors of a head of state on Nov. 13, 1974. This occurred a mere 25 months after the Olympic massacre in Munich by the Black September Palestinian terrorists, and barely five months after the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine slaughtered 22 Jewish high-school students in Ma’alot, Israel.

Since that day in 1974, the General Assembly has watched a parade of dictators, thugs and killers, including, this fall, the Iranian who stole an election and has repeatedly threatened Israel with nuclear annihilation. They are welcomed to spout their bile.

Take a measure. On one hand, you have Yasser Arafat, Idi Amin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Moammar Gadhafi, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe. On the other hand, you have Kennedy. There is a terrible imbalance when one weighs the U.N.’s roster over the last half century.

The final terrible irony is the young president’s own murder in 1963 by a communist wannabe. His brother, Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated five years later in the first act of Arab terrorism on U.S. soil. Palestinian-born Sirhan Sirhan shot him at close range after he won the hugely important California presidential primary in 1968. That act of terror subverted our electoral process and changed our history, all because of Robert Kennedy’s support of Israel…

You can watch a clip from JFK’s speech on terrorism by clicking on:

The Real Obstacle To Peace

Robin Shepherd introduces a much-needed dose of reality to the “peace process” debate by citing research on what Palestinian Arabs actually want:

…1) 60% of Palestinians support the proposition that “The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state”.

2) Only 30% supported the contrasting proposition that “The best goal is for a two state solution that keeps two states living side by side”. A mere 12% of Palestinians supported that proposition “strongly”.

3) 66% support the proposition that “Over time Palestinians must
work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state” with 42% strongly supporting that proposition.

4) Only 23% supported the contrasting proposition that “Israel has a permanent right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people”.

5) 71% believe Yaser Arafat was right to reject the two state solution brokered by Bill Clinton in 2000 which offered the Palestinians east Jerusalem as well as a peace settlement along 1967 lines. Only 24 percent said that in retrospect they did believe Arafat should have accepted the deal.

6) 55% support the proposition that “A Palestinian state should be run by Sharia Law” with only 35% supporting the contrasting proposition that “A Palestinian state should be run by civil law”.

7) 56% agreed with the proposition that “We will have to resort to armed struggle again” while 38 percent supported the contrasting proposition that “Violence only hurts Palestinians and the days of armed struggle are over”. Interestingly, residents of Gaza are much less enthusiastic about continuing the armed struggle (48%) than residents of the West Bank (62%) indicating, in line with other polls, that far from “radicalising” the Palestinians the Cast Lead operation in Gaza showed many people there that violence is the wrong path for the Palestinians to take.

Print these findings out. Paste them on your wall. Memorize them. And whenever anyone tells you that Israel, the settlements, the Israeli right-wing or whatever is the real obstacle to peace just ask them to explain what these findings mean. The rest is detail…

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research in October. The survey interviewed 1,020 respondents of which 854 were used to produce a representative sample. The margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

Yes, Israel Is A Rogue State

At the Cambridge University debating society, Gabriel Latner – a law student from Toronto- argues for the proposition that Israel, to her great credit, is in fact a “rogue state”:

…THE WORD “rogue” has come to have exceptionally damning connotations. But the word itself is value-neutral. The OED defines rogue as “Aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time,” while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition: “behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way.”

These definitions and others center on the idea of anomaly – the unexpected or uncommon. Using this definition, a rogue state is one that acts in an unexpected, uncommon or aberrant manner. A state that behaves exactly like Israel.

The first argument is statistical. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state alone makes it anomalous enough to be dubbed a rogue state: There are 195 countries in the world. Some are Christian, some Muslim, some are secular. Israel is the only country in the world that is Jewish. Or, to speak mathmo for a moment, the chance of any randomly chosen state being Jewish is 0.0051%. In comparison the chance of a UK lottery ticket winning at least £10 is 0.017% – more than twice as likely. Israel’s Jewishness is a statistical aberration.

The second argument concerns Israel’s humanitarianism – in particular, Israel’s response to a refugee crisis. Not the Palestinian refugee crisis – for I am sure that the other speakers will cover that – but the issue of Darfurian refugees. Everyone knows that what happened, and is still happening in Darfur, is genocide, whether or not the UN and the Arab League will call it such. There has been a mass exodus from Darfur as the oppressed seek safety. They have not had much luck. Many have gone north to Egypt – where they are treated despicably. The brave make a run through the desert in a bid to make it to Israel. Not only do they face the natural threats of the Sinai, they are also used for target practice by the Egyptian soldiers patrolling the border.

Why would they take the risk? Because in Israel they are treated with compassion – they are treated as the refugees that they are – and perhaps Israel’s cultural memory of genocide is to blame. The Israeli government has even gone so far as to grant several hundred Darfurian refugees citizenship. This alone sets Israel apart from the rest of the world.

But the real point of distinction is this: The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets.

Compare that to the US’s reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst – and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behavior anomalous is an understatement.

My third argument is that the Israeli government engages in an activity which the rest of the world shuns – it negotiates with terrorists. Forget the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, a man who died with blood all over his hands. They’re in the process of negotiating with terrorists as we speak. Yasser Abed Rabbo is one of the lead PLO negotiators that has been sent to the peace talks with Israel. Abed Rabbo also used to be a leader of the PFLP – an organization of “freedom fighters” that engaged in such freedom-promoting activities as killing 22 Israeli high school students. And the Israeli government is sending delegates to sit at a table with this man and talk about peace. And the world applauds.

You would never see the Spanish government in peace talks with the leaders of the ETA – the British government would never negotiate with Thomas Murphy. And if President Obama were to sit down and talk about peace with Osama Bin Laden, the world would view this as insanity. But Israel can do the exact same thing – and earn international praise in the process. That is the dictionary definition of rogue – behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal.

Another part of dictionary definition is behavior or activity “occurring at an unexpected place or time.” When you compare Israel to its regional neighbors, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is.

And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbors. At no point in history has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East – except for Israel. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality. In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded anti-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America.

Israel’s protection of its citizens’ civil liberties has earned international recognition. Freedom House is an NGO that releases an annual report on democracy and civil liberties in each of the 195 countries in the world. It ranks each country as “free,” “partly free” or “not free.” In the Middle East, Israel is the only country that has earned designation as a “free” country. Not surprising given the level of freedom afforded to citizens in say, Lebanon – a country designated “partly free,” where there are laws against reporters criticizing not only the Lebanese government, but the Syrian regime as well.

Iran is a country given the rating of “not free,” putting it alongside China, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Myanmar. In Iran, there is a special “press court” which prosecutes journalists for such heinous offenses as criticizing the ayatollah, reporting on stories damaging the “foundations of the Islamic republic,” using “suspicious (i.e., Western) sources,” or insulting Islam. Iran is the world leader in terms of jailed journalists, with 39 reporters (that we know of) in prison as of 2009. They also kicked out almost every Western journalist during the 2009 election. I guess we can’t really expect more from a theocracy.

Which is what most countries in the Middle East are – theocracies and autocracies. But Israel is the sole, the only, the rogue, democracy. Out of all the countries in the Middle East, only in Israel do anti-government protests and reporting go unquashed and uncensored.

I HAVE one final argument – the last nail in the opposition’s coffin – and it’s sitting right across the aisle. Mr. Ran Gidor’s presence here is all the evidence any of us should need to confidently call Israel a rogue state. For those of you who have never heard of him, Mr. Gidor is a political counselor attached to Israel’s embassy in London. He’s the guy the Israeli government sent to represent them to the UN. He knows what he’s doing. And he’s here tonight. And it’s incredible.

Consider, for a moment, what his presence here means. The Israeli government has signed off to allow one of their senior diplomatic representatives to participate in a debate on their very legitimacy. That’s remarkable. Do you think for a minute that any other country would do the same? If the Yale University Debating Society were to have a debate where the motion was “This house believes Britain is a racist, totalitarian state that has done irrevocable harm to the peoples of the world,” would Britain allow any of its officials to participate? No. Would China participate in a debate about the status of Taiwan? Never. And there is no chance in hell that an American government official would ever be permitted to argue in a debate concerning its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But Israel has sent Mr. Gidor to argue tonight against a 19-year-old law student who is entirely unqualified to speak on the issue at hand.

Every government in the world should be laughing at Israel right now, because it forgot rule number one. You never add credence to crackpots by engaging with them. It’s the same reason you won’t see Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins debate David Icke. But Israel is doing precisely that. Once again, behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal. Behaving like a rogue state.

That’s five arguments that have been directed at the supporters of Israel. But I have a minute or two left. And here’s an argument for all of you – Israel willfully and forcefully disregards international law. In 1981 Israel destroyed Osirak – Saddam Hussein’s nuclear bomb lab. Every government in the world knew that Hussein was building a bomb. And they did nothing. Except for Israel.

Yes, in doing so they broke international law and custom. But they also saved us all from a nuclear Iraq. That rogue action should earn Israel a place of respect in the eyes of all freedom-loving peoples. But it hasn’t.

But tonight, while you listen to us prattle on, I want you to remember something: While you’re here, Khomeini’s Iran is working towards the Bomb. And if you’re honest with yourself, you know that Israel is the only country that can, and will, do something about it. Israel will, out of necessity, act in a way that is the not the norm, and you’d better hope that they do it in a destructive manner. Any sane person would rather a rogue Israel than a nuclear Iran.

Thanks to a British relative for alerting me to this exceptional speech.

From Policeman To Pollyanna

Gary Varvel

Whenever I hear someone utter the cliche, “America can’t be the world’s policeman,” I say, “Well, do you have anyone else in mind for the job?”

Of course, the implication of the “world’s policeman” remark, a favorite of the left, is that the world doesn’t really need a policeman, and that America has assumed that role as a cover for its nefarious, imperialistic intentions. But I suspect that most Americans would be thrilled to let someone else take the job; however, I don’t see anyone else stepping up to the plate, as it were.

After World War II, the Europeans and Japanese went out of the self-defense business and outsourced their defense to America. And given the holy mess the Europeans and Asians made of the 20th century, the U.S. figured that those folks needed some adult supervision and thus reluctantly assumed the responsibility.

In keeping with the view that, except for Republicans, there really are no bad people in the world, only people whose grievances have not yet been accommodated, Barry has done his best to transform American foreign policy from the world’s policeman into the world’s pollyanna, as Bret Stephens notes:

…Last week, Mr. Obama was so resoundingly rebuffed by other leaders at the G-20 summit in Seoul that even the New York Times noticed: Mr. Obama, the paper wrote, faced “stiff challenges . . . from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.” His administration has now been chastised or belittled by everyone from the Supreme Leader of Iran to the finance minister of Germany to the president of France to the dictator of Syria. What does it mean for global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is someone who’s willing to take no for an answer?

The answer is that the United States becomes Europe. Except on a handful of topics, like trade and foreign aid, the foreign policy of the European Union, and that of most of its constituent states, amounts to a kind of diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable imagination, but neither sound nor effect. When a European leader issues a stern demarche toward, say, Burma or Russia, nobody notices. And nobody cares.

If the U.S. were to become another Europe—not out of diminished power, but out of a diminished will to assert its power—there would surely never be another Iraq war. That prospect would probably delight some readers of this column. It would also probably mean more fondness for the U.S. in some quarters where it is now often suspected. Vancouver, say, or the Parisian left bank. And that would gladden hearts from the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side.

But it would mean other things, too. The small and distant abuses of power, would grow bolder and more frequent. America’s exhortations for restraint or decency would seem cheaper. Multipolarity is a theory that, inevitably, leads to old-fashioned spheres of influence. It has little regard for small states: Taiwan, Mongolia, Israel, Georgia, Latvia, Costa Rica. The romance of the balance of power might have made sense when one empire was, more or less, as despotic as the next. It is less morally compelling when the choice is between democracy and Putinism, as it is today for Ukraine.

We are now at risk of entering a period—perhaps a decade, perhaps a half-century—of global disorder, brought about by a combination of weaker U.S. might and even weaker U.S. will. The last time we saw something like it was exactly a century ago. Winston Churchill wrote a book about it: “The World Crisis, 1911-1918.” Available in paperback. Worth reading today.

“We Wanted Him Around”

Jonathan Last makes a strong case for Barry’s being a world class egomaniac (who owes his career to white guilt):

…from page 160 of The Audacity of Hope:

“I find comfort in the fact that the longer I’m in politics the less nourishing popularity becomes, that a striving for power and rank and fame seems to betray a poverty of ambition, and that I am answerable mainly to the steady gaze of my own conscience.”

So popularity and fame once nourished him, but now his ambition is richer and he’s answerable not, like some presidents, to the Almighty, but to the gaze of his personal conscience. Which is steady. The fact that this sentence appears in the second memoir of a man not yet 50 years old—and who had been in national politics for all of two years—is merely icing.

People have been noticing Obama’s vanity for a long time. In 2008, one of his Harvard Law classmates, the entertainment lawyer Jackie Fuchs, explained what Obama was like during his school days: “One of our classmates once famously noted that you could judge just how pretentious someone’s remarks in class were by how high they ranked on the ‘Obamanometer,’ a term that lasted far longer than our time at law school. Obama didn’t just share in class—he pontificated. He knew better than everyone else in the room, including the teachers. ”

The story of Obama’s writing career is an object lesson in how our president’s view of himself shapes his interactions with the world around him. In 1990, Obama was wrapping up his second year at Harvard Law when the New York Times ran a profile of him on the occasion of his becoming the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. A book agent in New York named Jane Dystel read the story and called up the young man, asking if he’d be interested in writing a book. Like any 29-year-old, he wasn’t about to turn down money. He promptly accepted a deal with Simon & Schuster’s Poseidon imprint—reportedly in the low six-figures—to write a book about race relations.

Obama missed his deadline. No matter. His agent quickly secured him another contract, this time with Times Books. And a $40,000 advance. Not bad for an unknown author who had already blown one deal, writing about a noncommercial subject.

By this point Obama had left law school, and academia was courting him. The University of Chicago Law School approached him; although they didn’t have any specific needs, they wanted to be in the Barack Obama business. As Douglas Baird, the head of Chicago’s appointments committee, would later explain, “You look at his background—Harvard Law Review president, magna cum laude, and he’s African American. This is a no-brainer hiring decision at the entry level of any law school in the country.” Chicago invited Obama to come in and teach just about anything he wanted. But Obama wasn’t interested in a professor’s life. Instead, he told them that he was writing a book—about voting rights. The university made him a fellow, giving him an office and a paycheck to keep him going while he worked on this important project.

In case you’re keeping score at home, there was some confusion as to what book young Obama was writing. His publisher thought he was writing about race relations. His employer thought he was writing about voting rights law. But Obama seems to have never seriously considered either subject. Instead, he decided that his subject would be himself. The 32-year-old was writing a memoir.

Obama came clean to the university first. He waited until his fellowship was halfway over—perhaps he was concerned that his employers might not like the bait-and-switch. He needn’t have worried. Baird still hoped that Obama would eventually join the university’s faculty (he had already begun teaching a small classload as a “senior lecturer”). “It was a good deal for us,” Baird explained, “because he was a good teaching prospect and we wanted him around.”

And it all worked out in the end. The book Obama eventually finished was Dreams from My Father. It didn’t do well initially, but nine years later, after his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention made him a star, it sold like gangbusters. Obama got rich. And famous. The book became the springboard for his career in national politics…

In 2004, Obama explained to author David Mendell how he saw his future as a national political figure: “I’m LeBron, baby. I can play on this level. I got some game.” After just a couple of months in the Senate, Obama jumped the Democratic line and started asking voters to make him president…

In January 2009 he met with congressional leaders to discuss the stimulus package. The meeting was supposed to foster bipartisanship. Senator Jon Kyl questioned the plan’s mixture of spending and tax cuts. Obama’s response to him was, “I won.” A year later Obama held another meeting to foster bipartisanship for his health care reform plan. There was some technical back-and-forth about Republicans not having the chance to properly respond within the constraints of the format because President Obama had done some pontificating, as is his wont. Obama explained, “There was an imbalance on the opening statements because”—here he paused, self-satisfiedly—“I’m the president. And so I made, uh, I don’t count my time in terms of dividing it evenly.”

There are lots of times when you get the sense that Obama views the powers of the presidency as little more than a shadow of his own person. When he journeyed to Copenhagen in October 2009 to pitch Chicago’s bid for the Olympics, his speech to the IOC was about—you guessed it: “Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night,” he told the committee, “people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of .  .  . ” and away he went. A short while later he was back in Copenhagen for the climate change summit. When things looked darkest, he personally commandeered the meeting to broker a “deal.” Which turned out to be worthless. In January 2010, Obama met with nervous Democratic congressmen to assure them that he wasn’t driving the party off a cliff. Confronted with worries that 2010 could be a worse off-year election than 1994, Obama explained to the professional politicians, “Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.”…

On November 9, 2009, Europe celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was kind of a big deal. They may not mention the Cold War in schools much these days, but it pitted the Western liberal order against a totalitarian ideology in a global struggle. In this the United States was the guarantor of liberty and peace for the West; had we faltered, no corner of the world would have been safe from Soviet domination.

President Obama has a somewhat different reading. He explains: “The Cold War reached a conclusion because of the actions of many nations over many years, and because the people of Russia and Eastern Europe stood up and decided that its end would be peaceful.” Pretty magnanimous of the Soviets to let the long twilight struggle end peacefully like that, especially after all we did to provoke them.

So Obama doesn’t know much about the Cold War. Which is probably why he didn’t think the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was all that important. When the leaders of Europe got together to commemorate it, he decided not to go to that, either. But he did find time to record a video message, which he graciously allowed the Europeans to air during the ceremony.

In his video, Obama ruminated for a few minutes on the grand events of the 20th century, the Cold War itself, and the great lesson we all should take from this historic passing: “Few would have foreseen .  .  . that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it.” The fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and the freedom of all humanity—it’s great stuff. Right up there with the election of Barack Obama…

Obama’s faith in his abilities extends beyond mere vote-getting. Buried in a 2008 New Yorker piece by Ryan Lizza about the Obama campaign was this gob-smacking passage:

“Obama said that he liked being surrounded by people who expressed strong opinions, but he also said, ‘I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.’ After Obama’s first debate with McCain, on September 26th, [campaign political director Patrick] Gaspard sent him an e-mail. ‘You are more clutch than Michael Jordan,’ he wrote. Obama replied, ‘Just give me the ball.’”

In fairness to Obama, maybe he is a better speechwriter than his speechwriters. After all, his speechwriter was a 27-year-old, and the most affecting part of Obama’s big 2008 stump speech was recycled from Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, with whom he shared a campaign strategist. But it’s instructive that Obama thinks he knows “more about policies on any particular issue” than his policy directors. The rate of growth of the mohair subsidy? The replacement schedule for servers at the NORAD command center? The relationship between annual rainfall in northeast Nevada and water prices in Las Vegas?..

Valerie Jarrett—think of her as the president’s Karen Hughes—tells [David] Remnick that Obama is often bored with the world around him. “I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually,” Jarrett says. “So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that they had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy.” Jarrett concludes, “He’s been bored to death his whole life.”

With one or two possible exceptions, that is… “Jarrett was quite sure that one of the few things that truly engaged him fully before going to the White House was writing Dreams from My Father.” So the only job Barack Obama ever had that didn’t bore him was writing about Barack Obama…

Losing Their Heads

Historian Walter Russell Mead, a Democrat who gets it:

…Who can forget the rapturous cries of joy when [Obama] was elected in 2008? Who can forget all those predictions of a ‘transformational presidency,’ hailing the one term Senator from Illinois as a new Lincoln, a new FDR, and (my personal favorite) the ‘Democratic Reagan’?

Some of this was a natural pride that virtually the entire country felt at the election of our first African-American President…

But some of the enthusiasm was less solidly based. Who can forget the lavish praise of the new President’s mesmerizing rhetoric? Serious political writers seriously compared the President’s campaign addresses to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural. The Great Persuader was going to carry the country into a new age of progressive politics, creating a new consensus behind the power of a reinvigorated state. The earth would start to cool, the waters to recede, the rainbows would appear in the sky.

All pundits, including yours truly, get it wrong sometimes, and normally there would be little point in dwelling on past blunders. But it this case, it is worth exhuming these vaporous and embarrassing stupidities for a few moments. Many of our nation’s intellectual leaders wonder why the rest of the country isn’t more respectful of their claims to be guided by and speak for the cool voice of celestial reason. That so many of them gushed over Barack Obama with all of the profundity of reflection and intellectual distance of tweeners at a Justin Bieber concert should help them understand why their claims of superior wisdom are sometimes met with caustic cynicism.

A significant chunk of the American liberal intelligentsia completely lost its head over Barack Obama. They mistook hopes and fantasies for reality. Worse, the disease spread to at least some members of the White House team. An administration elected with a mandate to stabilize the country misread the political situation and came to the belief that the country wanted the kinds of serious and deep changes that liberals have wanted for decades. It was 1933, and President Obama was the new FDR.

They did not perceive just how wrong they were; nor did they understand how the error undermined the logical case they wanted to make in favor of a bigger role for government guided by smart, well-credentialed liberal wonks. Give us more power because we understand the world better than you do, was the message. We are so smart, so well-credentialed, so careful to read all the best papers by all the certified experts that the recommendations we make and the regulations we write, however outlandish and burdensome they look to all you non-experts out there, are certain to work. Trust us because we are always right, and only fools and charlatans would be so stupid as to disagree.

They were fundamentally misreading the mood of the country, the political situation, and the ability of the new president even as they claimed that their superior and universal wisdom gave them the right and the duty to plan the future of vast swatches of the American economy. They were swept away by giddy euphoria even as they proclaimed the virtue of cool reason. Voters could see this; increasingly, they tuned the administration out…

And that beacon of enlightenment, the United Nations, gives a seat on the U.N.’s top women’s rights body to the “most misogynistic dicatorship in the world.”:

Saudi Arabia, probably the most misogynistic dictatorship in the world, has won a seat on UN Women, the UN’s top women’s rights body, the BBC reports today. Iran, however, failed to gain a seat. Nonetheless, the fact that a Saudi regime which does not even allow women to drive cars will now sit in judgement on global gender equality issues is a sickening development even by the depraved standards we have come to expect from UN rights bodies… [From Robin Shepherd Online].

Sean Penn Plus Iraq War Plus Hollywood

Hollywood "history"

Daily Caller on the Sean Penn rewrite of recent history:

It is an equation that is as certain as two plus two equals four: Sean Penn + Iraq War
+ Hollywood movie = something less than the truth.

And so it is with director Doug Liman’s “Fair Game,” starring Penn and released last Friday, despite Liman’s contention that he made strenuous efforts to depict only those claims he could back up. “I exercised the kind of restraint you don’t normally see from a Hollywood filmmaker,” Liman told The Daily Caller in an interview Monday. “I stuck to the facts.”…

MOVIE MYTH #3: The 16 words about uranium from Africa in Bush’s State of the Union speech were a lie, and it was well known to be a lie because of Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger.

One of the main turning points in the movie is when Wilson is sitting at an airport bar listening to the State of the Union when he hears Bush utter these 16 words: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

He discovers later that when referencing Africa, Bush was indeed referring to Niger specifically. This sets Wilson, who suggests his report to the CIA definitively debunked the Iraq-Niger claim, off. The ultimate culmination of his rage is him penning his op-ed in the New York Times in July 2003.

There is a minefield full of problems with all of this. For starters, Bush’s statement was technically accurate. British intelligence was suggesting at the time that Iraq was trying to get uranium from Niger. After a lengthy investigation, in 2004, the British government
would issue the Butler Report on pre-war intelligence about Iraqi WMD. On Bush’s State of the Union claim, it said, “we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 … was well-founded.”

What’s more, Joe Wilson’s contention that he definitively disproved the possibility that Iraq purchased uranium from Niger is categorically false — at least the CIA didn’t take it that way at all. The bipartisan U.S. Senate report looking into intelligence failures surrounding Iraq stated that while the intelligence report regarding Wilson’s trip showed the difficulty of Niger selling uranium to rogue countries, it “did not refute the possibility that Iraq had approached Niger to purchase uranium.” In fact, the report goes on to say, that the most important information gleaned from Wilson’s trip to Niger was “that the Nigerian officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and the Nigerian prime minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium …”

The Senate report ultimately concluded, “The report on the former ambassador’s trip to Niger, disseminated in March 2002, did not change any analysts’ assessments of the Iraq-Niger uranium deal. For most analysts, the information in the report lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal,” though the report does note that “State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts believed that the report supported their assessment that Niger was unlikely to be willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq.”

Overall, Wilson’s trip, according to the report, was mainly viewed as a non-event — intelligence community “analysts had a fairly consistent response to the intelligence report based on the former ambassador’s trip in that no one believed it added a great deal of new information to the Iraq-Niger uranium story,” the Senate report reads. What’s more, Wilson’s trip was viewed as so inconsequential that the Senate report says that the “CIA’s briefer did not brief the vice president on the report, despite the vice president’s previous questions about the issue.”

The bipartisan Senate report also discovered that Wilson was telling the press things that he couldn’t possibly have known about. Wilson was the source in a Washington Post article that said documents related to the supposed Niger uranium sale to Iraq were forged because “the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.” Except, as the Senate report noted, Wilson “had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports.” Wilson told the Senate committee that he may have “misspoken.”

Now, it is true the CIA later concluded that the 16 words probably should not have been included in the president’s State of the Union address. But as the Senate report notes, “At the time the president delivered the State of the Union address, no one in the IC [intelligence community] had asked anyone in the White House to remove the sentence from the speech.” It further noted that “CIA Iraq nuclear analysts and the director of WINPAC told committee staff that at the time of the State of the Union, they still believed that Iraq was probably seeking uranium from Africa, and they continued to hold that belief until the IAEA reported that the documents were forgeries.”

In other words, Bush’s 16 words are hardly an example of the Bush administration’s perfidy in supposedly pushing false claims about Iraq on the American public in order to justify war. Like much of the intelligence given to the Bush administration before the war, the intelligence community simply got it wrong…

It’s a relatively long article but worthwhile; nevertheless, the movie is certain to be taken as gospel by the religious left.

And World Affairs Journal reviews:

…The movie conforms to a pure and simple Hollywood story line complete with hero (Wilson), villain (Libby), and innocent, distressed damsel (Plame). That story line is gospel for the Left. A corollary story line is gospel for the Right: that Libby took the fall for Cheney.

Both are wrong. The fundamental problem is that Hollywood’s narrative needs and political leanings often conflict with reality. Hollywood needs a straightforward story line. Washington is more complicated. The usual explanation for bad outcomes inside the Beltway is not evil or corruption but incompetence or poor judgment. And there are rarely heroes.

Wilson, for example, is a misguided missile, not a courageous whistleblower, and Plame was hardly innocent collateral damage in a war of words. Whatever one thinks about the Iraq policy he helped formulate, Libby had nothing to do with the leak. A review of grand jury and trial transcripts shows he told both the grand jury and FBI that Cheney had told him about Plame’s CIA links, so he did not cover or take the fall for his former boss. But the conventional wisdom is deeply ingrained in the public psyche. In fact, when I bought Plame’s autobiography recently, the cashier at Borders called the White House behavior treasonous. That’s why it’s time to take a fresh look at the Plame affair and set the record straight.

Joe Wilson had gone to Niger in 2002 at the request of the CIA after Cheney had asked the agency about reports that Iraq bought yellowcake from Niger. According to a declassified CIA memo, Wilson found that Iraq had sent a commercial delegation to Niger to expand trade and that the only Niger export Iraq would care about was yellowcake. So there was an attempt, but it proved fruitless. In his 2003 State of Union address, Bush said the British had reported an effort by Iraq to buy “significant quantities of uranium” in Africa. In his July 6, 2003, Times op-ed, Wilson suggested that that statement was evidence the administration was manipulating intelligence to push the war. But Bush said only that the British reported that Iraq “sought” to purchase yellowcake, which was precisely what Wilson had found and reported, according to the CIA. Still, the op-ed caused a furor, and the White House quickly backed off the statements about Iraqi efforts.

Since it is the premise of the film, it’s worth asking: Did the Bush administration distort intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq, as Wilson claimed?

A year after Wilson’s op-ed appeared, on July 9, 2004, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that found that the intelligence available at the time Bush delivered his speech supported what Bush said. A month later, on August 23, 2004, the University of Pennsylvania’s nonpartisan voter watchdog, FactCheck.org, concluded: “The famous ‘16 words’ in President Bush’s Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union address turn out to have a basis in fact after all.” The organization noted that: “Ironically, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who later called Bush’s 16 words a ‘lie,’ supplied information that the Central Intelligence Agency took as confirmation that Iraq may indeed have been seeking uranium from Niger.” The bipartisan Robb-Silberman Commission reached the same conclusion. Yet, as recently as October 19 at a showing of Fair Game at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Md., Wilson continued to argue that what Bush said in his speech was “bullshit” and that Bush had “skewed facts for political reasons.” The anti-Bush audience ate it up. But it sure looks as if Wilson is doing precisely what he accused Bush of doing.

Valerie Plame says in her memoir that she read the report that the CIA wrote immediately after debriefing Wilson on his trip and also read his column before it was published. She added that she thought the column was accurate. She said the report was only a few pages long. No one, let alone a professional intelligence officer, could have missed the part about Iraq trying to buy yellowcake. She had to know the column was wrong, but evidently said nothing. So she was anything but an innocent bystander as her husband created a political firestorm.

The movie portrays Lewis “Scooter” Libby as the mastermind behind the leak that outed Plame and suggests the move was part of a plot to smear Wilson. But columnist Robert Novak, who broke the story about Plame’s CIA link, testified at Libby’s trial that Libby did not tell him about Plame. Nor did the prosecution ever claim that Libby leaked to Novak. Novak testified that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage — no ally of Libby and Cheney — was the source. Armitage apparently leaked Plame’s CIA job as an offhand bit of gossip at the end of an interview. Armitage was not part of any White House plot to out Plame. CIA spokesman Bill Harlow and White House advisor Karl Rove later confirmed for Novak that Plame worked for CIA —again, no connection to Libby. To show how far the movie diverges from reality, Armitage — who should have been a key character — isn’t even in the film, except for a note at the end that mentions his role…

Again the entire article is worthwhile reading, especially the part about the prosecution of “Scooter” Libby.

20 Questions

Glenn McCoy

Are you a member of the religious left? Answer the following questions to find out:

What Kind Of Liberal Are You?

1.Did O. J. Simpson murder his wife and Ron Goldman? Yes or No.

2.Did George W. Bush have advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attack?

3.Were the Israelis behind the 9/11 attack?

4.Did Jews who worked at the World Trade Center call in sick that day because they were warned by Israel?

5.Who assassinated JFK?:

a.Dick Cheney b.Sarah Palin c.the CIA d.none of the above

6.Did JFK believe in the so-called domino theory or did he think that anti-communism was the result of “right-wing paranoia”?

7.If Barack Obama were merely, in Joe Biden’s words, a “clean and articulate” white guy, would he be president today?

8.Is it possible to provide medical insurance to 30-40 million more people and lower the cost and improve the quality of medical care and still only raise taxes on less than 2 percent of the population and not have rationing?

9.Will Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with and sanctions on Iran prevent the regime from acquiring nuclear weapons?

10.Will the Arabs accept a Jewish and Arab state living side by side and in peace?

11.Compliments of Alan Dershowitz. If the Arabs were to unilaterally disarm, would war or peace break out? If Israel were to unilaterally disarm, would war or peace break out?

12.Which is more true to you? Barack Obama is clean and articulate. Barack Obama is brilliant and eloquent.

13.Do you think Barack Obama’s race speech given in defense of his attending for decades a church run by an anti-American, anti-Semitic supporter of Farakhan is the greatest speech since the Gettysburg Address, as professor and Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills wrote?

14.Do you think Sarah Palin gave birth to the child now being raised by Sarah Palin’s daughter as Atlantic Monthly editor Andrew Sullivan has claimed?

15.Do you believe that some Texas congressman named Steve Stockman had “advanced knowledge” of the Oklahoma City terror attack as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has claimed?

16.Do you believe AIDS was created by doctors (Jewish) in the laboratory to kill off African Americans?

17.Which group is more anti-Semitic according to numerous surveys done over the last 30 years? A. white Evangelical Christians B. African Americans

18.Which group voted most heavily against gay marriage in the California referendum? A. Caucasians B. African Americans

19.Did George W. Bush know before the invasion of Iraq that there were no stockpiles of WMD and thus lied about it?

20.Did the French, British, Israelis, Egyptians, Germans, Jordanians, Russians etc. believe that there were stockpiles of WMD or did they believe before the invasion that there were no stockpiles in Iraq .

The Jihadist Formerly Known As Cat Stevens

British writer Nick Cohen on the fatuous Jon Stewart, the all-too-hip leftists’ favorite “journalist,” and his buddy: the jihadist formerly known as Cat Stephens:

In my previous post about Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam I quoted Salman Rushdie’s surprise that Jon Stewart had given a starring role at his “Rally for Sanity” to a crooner who had previously opined that Rushdie deserved to die for deciding of his own free will to abandon Islam and criticise its texts.

Salman has messaged me again and says,

“I spoke to Jon Stewart about Yusuf Islam’s appearance. He said he was sorry it upset me, but really, it was plain that he was fine with it. Depressing.”

“Pathetic” is the word I would use. If members of the Tea Party said that American intellectuals who renounced Christiainity deserved to die for their apostasy would Stewart be fine with that too? Of course he wouldn’t. His eyes would roll, his voice would thunder and that charming schoolboy smile would vanish from his face. He would never forget, until they repudiated.

With intellectuals from the Muslim world, it is a different matter entirely. Stewart does not seem to mind that Cat Yusuf Stevens Islam has never apologized for his support for Salman’s murder…Stewart, and from what I can gather many others on the American Left, are now aping a liberal form of racism we have had in Europe for years. Its unprincipled adherents hold fanatics to be guilty of nothing more than forgivable rhetorical excess when they deliver excuses for murder. They are free to justify threats to novelists or the oppression of women, gays, free-thinkers etc. if — and only if — the novelists, apostates, women, gays, free thinkers etc. have brown rather than white skins.

But then what beyond rank hypocrisy did American liberals expect? They allowed their political movement to be led by comedians, and cannot complain if they get a blackly comic illustration of the “racism of the anti-racists” in return.

Election Mythology

Michael Ramirez

The irrepressible Ann Coulter analyzes the election results and debunks a few myths:

…With the addition of new Republican senators Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Marco Rubio (Florida) — among others — the average IQ of Senate Republicans has just increased by about 20 points. Also, liberals won’t have Sharron Angle to kick around anymore. Now that Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are gone, Keith Olbermann is indefinitely suspending his “Worst Persons of the World” segment.

Republicans added two magnificent new black faces to the Congress with Allen West in Florida, who beat sore loser Ron Klein 54.3 percent to 45.7 percent (with 97 percent counted, Klein wouldn’t concede), and Tim Scott in South Carolina, who crushed Democrat Ben Frasier, 65-29.

Republicans also launched two new Hispanic stars this election: Sen.-elect Marco Rubio from Florida and the new governor of New Mexico, Susanna Martinez. And we got a bonus Sikh — Nikki Haley, the new governor of South Carolina. MSNBC is still searching for the “Republicans are racist” angle in all of this.

The most important outcome of this week’s election is that Republicans clobbered the Democrats in the state gubernatorial and legislative races. Next year, state lawmakers draw new congressional districts, determining the congressional map for the next decade. In the past, Democrats have had a 2-1 advantage in congressional redistricting. Not anymore.

Tuesday night, Republicans won governorships in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina — pause, deep breath — New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Alaska, Maine, Iowa and Florida. They also swept the state legislatures.

Meanwhile, the Democrats won governor’s races in California, New York, Massachusetts, Arkansas and Maryland.

Not only are all the Democrats’ states losing population, which isn’t as important for redistricting, but the Democrats’ biggest plum, California — losing congressional seats for the first time since the ’50s — also approved a ballot measure that will take redistricting out of the hands of the California legislators and turn it over to a Citizens Redistricting Commission.

So the Democrats got nothing out of this election. Worst of all, now they’re stuck with Harry Reid.

Democrats’ congressional redistricting dreams weren’t the only thing that died Tuesday night. A slew of election myths died — though I’m sure they’ll have to be killed off again in every future election:

…Republicans never had a chance to take the Senate, and anyone who knows the difference between California and Tennessee knew that. Most of the Senate seats up this year happened to be in very, very “blue” states. Short of a Republican invasion of the body snatchers, Republicans weren’t going to be electing senators from California, New York and Oregon.

Acting as if [Christine] O’Donnell’s primary victory [in Delaware] dashed Republican dreams of taking the Senate was always absurd — particularly coming from the people who supported a World Wrestling Entertainment impresario in Connecticut and did nothing to help a Republican who could have won that race.

([myth]5) The Republican landslide in the House will lead to a bitterly divided Congress with unimaginable gridlock.

The fact that this year’s crop of Senate elections was bad for the Republicans means the Senate elections two years from now, and then again four years from now, are going to be fantastic for Republicans.

Do you think Claire McCaskill, Jim Webb, Sherrod Brown and Jon Tester of Montana — all of whom will be facing the voters in two years — noticed that popular, long-serving Democrat Russ Feingold just lost an election in a much more liberal state than their own?

Even Lindsey Graham is going to start voting with the Republicans!

(6) Connecticut voters wouldn’t mind a World Wrestling Entertainment impresario.

Connecticut isn’t Minnesota. Anyone with the slightest familiarity with Connecticut knew WWE owner Linda McMahon never had a chance against Dick Blumenthal, a Democrat so repulsive even The New York Times attacked him.

Republicans had the ideal Connecticut candidate in Rob Simmons, who lost the primary to McMahon. He had won in liberal districts before, was a graduate of Haverford College and Harvard University, was an Army colonel who served in Vietnam and teaches at Yale. He also never kicked a man in the groin for entertainment. But Simmons didn’t have McMahon’s money, so Republicans went with McMahon…

And some straight-talk analysis from Victor Davis Hanson:

…So What Was Tuesday?

The truth is always the simplest explanation. Here it goes in simple language from the beginning: Obama was elected largely because of public furor over Bush/Iraq. The fawning media hid his socialist background. He ran as a centrist. The Wall Street meltdown wiped away the small McCain/Palin lead. Obama in his hubris took that flukish set of events and reinvented them into proof that he could deliver to the left a once-in-a-century EU-style socialist makeover of America. That effort polarized the country, stalled the recovery, and terrified the private sector into stasis. Obama, who was always himself given something (take your pick—Harvard admission, Harvard Law Review billet, Chicago Law School tenure offer, Noble Peace Prize, etc.) without requisite achievement, is thus stunned that the economy is not an animate Law dean whom he can hope and change into compliance. So naturally he is angry and has turned to almost everything in the past that worked: the race card, the get-out-the-minority vote card, the enemy Republican bad actors, the greedy rich takers, etc.. But now none of the old “them” bogeymen work; the more that tactic is tried, the more the economy stalls and the people get angry. It’s that simple. He can talk all he wishes, but until he offers fiscal responsibility, private sector encouragement, reassurance of adhering to singular American capitalism, and pro-jobs tax policies, he will continue more of these Orwellian, thinking-out-loud press conferences.