Tag Archives: Jacob Heilbrunn

Weekend At Bernie’s Jail Cell

Diana Henriques at NYT:

Bernard L. Madoff said he never thought the collapse of his Ponzi scheme would cause the sort of destruction that has befallen his family.

In his first interview for publication since his arrest in December 2008, Mr. Madoff — looking noticeably thinner and rumpled in khaki prison garb — maintained that family members knew nothing about his crimes.

But during a private two-hour interview in a visitor room here on Tuesday, and in earlier e-mail exchanges, he asserted that unidentified banks and hedge funds were somehow “complicit” in his elaborate fraud, an about-face from earlier claims that he was the only person involved.

Mr. Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence, seemed frail and a bit agitated compared with the stoic calm he maintained before his incarceration in 2009, perhaps burdened by sadness over the suicide of his son Mark in December.

Besides that loss, his family also has faced stacks of lawsuits, the potential forfeiture of most of their assets, and relentless public suspicion and enmity that cut Mr. Madoff and his wife Ruth off from their children.

In many ways, however, Mr. Madoff seemed unchanged. He spoke with great intensity and fluency about his dealings with various banks and hedge funds, pointing to their “willful blindness” and their failure to examine discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information available to them.

“They had to know,” Mr. Madoff said. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.’ ”

Matt Schneider at Mediaite:

Bernie Madoff, the con artist who pleaded guilty two years ago to a series of financial crimes, gave his first jailhouse interview to The New York Times and was angry with a lot of his critics. Most notably, he attacked the news media for their “disgraceful” coverage of his son’s suicide.Appearing “noticeably slimmer,” “frail” and “agitated,” Madoff disclosed that banks and hedge funds were complicit all along and “had to know” about his schemes. He again claimed that his family was unaware of his crimes until the very end. In reporting on the interview, ABC’s Brian Ross quotes a prosecutor who concludes “Madoff is incapable of telling the truth still to this day.”

Uri Friedman at The Atlantic:

Madoff’s statements are particularly relevant at a time when Irving Picard, the trustee for Madoff’s victims, has accused JPMorgan Chase of harboring serious concerns about Madoff’s investment business but not notifying authorities or halting business with him. Yet, as Henriques notes, federal prosecutors have yet to accuse the major banks and hedge funds that dealt with Madoff “of knowingly investing in his Ponzi scheme.”

Madoff Has Helped Trustee

Madoff claimed he’s met with his victims’ trustee, Irving Picard, and provided him with information about the banks and hedge funds he did business with, though he says he hasn’t shared this information with federal prosecutors working on criminal cases.

Family Crisis Unforeseen

Madoff said he didn’t foresee the extent of the suffering his fraud would inflict on his family. His relations are confronting a barrage of lawsuits and his son, Mark, committed suicide in December. Madoff called some of the press coverage of Mark’s death “disgraceful” and stated that he didn’t attend Mark’s funeral because of prison regulations and because he didn’t want to turn the funeral into a “media circus.”

Mets Owner ‘Knew Nothing’

Picard alleges that New York Mets Owner Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law, Saul Katz, knew or should have known from their financial dealings with Madoff that he was defrauding investors, but Madoff vehemently denies this: “They knew nothing. They knew nothing,” he asserted.

Andrew Leonard at Salon:

Should we trust him? After all, if there is one thing we know about Bernie Madoff, it is that he is one hell of a liar. But as evidence emerges that bank executives were exchanging e-mails wondering about Madoff’s amazing investment record, the possibility that the banks were purposefully looking the other way is not inconceivable.

The question is: What to do about it?

How about: Make sure government regulatory agencies entrusted with oversight over financial markets are adequately funded and staffed for the job?

Wouldn’t you know it — Obama wants to boost the budget for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the two key government agencies watching over Wall Street

Jacob Heilbrunn at The National Interest:
As Frank Rich recently observed, Madoff was a “second-tier player.” But he could lead to bigger fry. The Wilpons, who own the New York Mets, are already in big financial trouble for their extensive dealings with Madoff–Donald Trump is angling to buy a majority stake in the team. Then there are the hedge funds and banks that were linked to, or in cahoots with, Madoff.

At this point Madoff has little to lose. President Obama shows little appetite for curbing the excesses that led to the last financial crash. Madoff cannot achieve redemption. His historical role as the biggest Ponizi schemer (so far) in history is set. He became the type-cast bad guy. For awhile Madoff took all the credit, if that’s the right phrase, for the malversation he oversaw. That’s changed. Now he seems to be interested in ensuring that his collaborators, witting or unwitting, also take the fall (though he is notably exempting his own family members from any knowledge of his transgressions).

Madoff’s own crediblity is shot. But if the information that he’s apparently providing to Picard pans out, then he may get his own measure of revenge for the humiliations he has suffered, and is suffering.  Balzac said that behind every great fortune is a crime. Madoff now seems intent on demonstrating the truth of that axiom. One thing seems clear: Madoff is not going to go down quietly. The aftershocks from his exposure may well continue to roil the financial world.

Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider

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Filed under Economics, The Crisis

Break Out The Still, Hawkeye, It Looks Like You Have To Go Back, Part II

Craig Hooper and Christopher R. Albon at The Atlantic:

As the Korean peninsula enters what U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls “a difficult and potentially dangerous time,” the long-dormant Korean conflict is rumbling back into the public consciousness. Government officials from the U.S., South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and other states throughout the region are planning for the worst-case scenario: renewed war, perhaps nuclear, and a massive exodus from South Korea. If tensions continue to escalate, hundreds of thousands of foreign civilians living in South Korea will flee, sparking one the biggest mass-evacuations since the British and French pulled 338,000 troops out of Dunkirk in 1940.

Even under the best conditions, a mass evacuation is no easy task. In July 2006, as a battle brewed between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants, the U.S. took nearly a month to evacuate 15,000 Americans. According to the Government Accountability Office, “nearly every aspect of State’s preparations for evacuation was overwhelmed”, by the challenge of running an evacuation under low-threat conditions in a balmy Mediterranean summer.

Evacuating a Korean war-zone would be far harder. And the U.S. would likely have no choice but to ask China for help.

If North Korea launches another artillery strike against South Korea–or simply hurls itself at the 38th parallel–the resulting confrontation could trigger one of the largest population movements in human history. According to one account, 140,000 U.S. government noncombatants and American citizens would look to the U.S. government for a way out. And that’s just the Americans. Hundreds of thousands of South Korean citizens and other foreign nationals would be clamoring for any way off of the wintery, dangerous peninsula.

In the absolute worst case, tens of millions of South Koreans and hundreds of thousands of foreigners, some wounded, some suffering from chemical, biological or even radiological hazards, will flee in the only direction available to them: south. The country’s transportation system would be in nationwide gridlock as panicked civilians avail themselves of any accessible means of travel. In this desperation and chaos, the U.S. military has the unenviable mission of supporting and evacuating U.S. citizens, all while waging a fierce battle along the DMZ.

Jacob Heilbrunn at The National Interest:

South Korea has started to defend itself again against the North. It’s about time. For too long South Korea has been lax about the threat it faces.

It’s refusal to back down in the face of the North’s bluster about a calamitous attack should it proceed with a military drill on Yeonpyeong island, part of an area that the North claims as its sphere, was a promising sign. South Korean president Lee Myung-bak entered office with the claim that he would toughen up policy towards the North. He didn’t. The result was that the North kept hitting the South with impunity, whether it was attacking the South’s sea vessels or the island. Further tests are surely in the offing.

The North, however, is dependent on China and may not be as mercurial as it’s often depicted. The blunt fact is that it backed down from its dire threats against the South. The military drill went as it was supposed to. The North’s bluff was called.

Maybe former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had a hand as well in getting the North to stay its itchy trigger finger. Richardson, a maverick operator if there ever was one, likes to hold powwows with the world’s dictators, a trait he shares with former president Jimmy Carter. But Richardson often seems to get results, in contrast to Carter. Richardson is asserting that the North is offering some concessions on its nuclear program.

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room at Wired:

Overblown threats and North Korea go together like Kim Jong-il and Japanese pornography. But if South Korea goes forward with a live-fire drilling exercise — something that could happen as early as today — Pyongyang is threatening to reignite war on the Korean peninsula. Only it doesn’t look like it’s actually mobilizing for a sustained attack.

All eyes return to Yeonpyeong island, a South Korean island just south of the maritime armistice line that the North attacked in November. A few miles from the west coast of the Korean Peninsula in the Yellow Sea, it’s where South Korea’s military insists it’ll shoot off its K-9 howitzers, 81-mm mortars and 105-mm and Vulcan Gatling artillery guns. The target is an area southwest of the island — that is, away from North Korea. A contingent of about 20 U.S. troops will be on-site, ostensibly to provide medical backup, intel and communications support.

Their real presence probably has more to do with dissuading North Korea from attacking the South in response. Its official news agency put out a statement from military leaders that it will launch an “unpredictable self-defensive blow” if the drill proceeds. North Korea shelled the island last month after a previous exercise, killing two South Korean marines and another two civilians. This time, Pyongyang vows, its response will be “deadlier… in terms of the powerfulness and sphere of the strike.”

Civilians fled Yeonpyeong on Sunday. But North Korea didn’t look like it was preparing to back up the retaliation talk. The Wall Street Journal reports that military surveillance of the North showed “no signs of unusual troop movement or war preparations,” and the bellicose rhetoric didn’t come from Kim’s offices directly. Reuters reports that North Korean artillery units are on elevated alert, but that appears to be the extent of any buildup.

Sharon LaFraniere and Martin Fackler at NYT:

An ominous showdown between North and South Korea was forestalled Monday after the North withheld military retaliation for South Korea’s live-fire artillery drills on an island that the North shelled last month after similar drills.

The North claims the island and its surrounding waters and had threatened “brutal consequences beyond imagination” if the drills went forward. But the North’s official news agency issued a statement Monday night saying it was “not worth reacting” to the exercise, and a statement from the North’s military said, “The world should properly know who is the true champion of peace and who is the real provocateur of a war.”

The apparent pullback created a palpable feeling of relief in South Korea, where many people had been bracing for a showdown.

Daniel Drezner:

So now North Korea also wants to restart the Six-Party Talks? What just happened? As always, trying to explain North Korean behavior is a challenging task. Here are some possible explanations:

1) North Korea finally got caught bluffing. True, they have the least to lose from the ratcheting up of tensions, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to lose from a military escalation with the ROK. The past month of tensions got everyone’s attention, and North Korea is only happy when everyone else is paying attention to them.

2) Kim Jong Un was busy. One of the stronger explanations for the DPRK’s last round of provocations was that this was an attempt to bolster Kim the Younger’s military bona fides before the transition. Reading up on what little is out there, it wouldn’t shock me if he planned all of this and then postponed any retaliation because he’d organized a Wii Bowling tournament among his entourage.

Somewhat more seriously, it’s possible that there are domestic divisions between the military, the Foreign Ministry, and the Workers Party, and that the latter two groups vetoed further escalation.

3) China put the screws on North Korea. For all the talk about juche, North Korea needs external aid to function, and over the past year all the aid lifelines have started to dry up — except for Beijing. As much as the North Koreans might resent this relationship — and they do — if Beijing leaned hard on Pyongyang,

4) North Korea gave the ROK government the domestic victory it needed. Bear with me for a second. The shelling incident has resulted in a sea change in South Korean public opinion, to the point where Lee Myung-bak was catching hell for not responding more aggressively to the initial provocation. This is a complete 180 from how the ROK public reacted to the Cheonan incident, in which Lee caught hell for responding too aggressively.

Lee clearly felt domestic pressure to do something. Maybe, just maybe, the North Korean leadership realized this fact, and believed that not acting now would give Lee the domestic victory he needed to walk back his own brinksmanship.

5) Overnight, the DPRK military hired the New York Giants coaching staff to contain South Korean provocations. Let’s see… a dazzling series of perceived propaganda victories, followed by the pervasive sense that they held all the cards in this latest contretemps. Then an inexplicable decision not to do anything aggressive at the last minute, after which containment policies fail miserably. Hmmm… you have to admit, this MO sounds awfully familiar.

If I had to make a semi-informed guess — and it’s just that – I’d wager a combination of (1) and (4).

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, Global Hot Spots

American Enterprise Institute: Now With 100% Less Frum

David Frum at FrumForum:

I have been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute since 2003. At lunch today, AEI President Arthur Brooks and I came to a termination of that relationship.

Below is the text of my letter of resignation.

Dear Arthur,

This will memorialize our conversation at lunch today. Effective immediately, my position as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is terminated. I appreciate the consideration that delays my emptying of my office until after my return from travel next week. Premises will be vacated no later than April 9.

I have had many fruitful years at the American Enterprise Institute, and I do regret this abrupt and unexpected conclusion of our relationship.

Very truly yours,

David Frum

Frances Martel at Mediaite:

The announcement comes shortly after Frum received a rush of criticism for a column suggesting that the passing of health care reform was the Republicans’ “Waterloo,” and that they “suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.”

The “Waterloo” piece, as well as subsequent criticism of the Republicans, was a deviation for Frum, who had been reliably supportive of the conservative cause throughout his career. While he received plenty of criticism from many on the right– most prone to dismiss him as a relic of the neo-conservative 2000s– and even got his old bosses in hot water with Rep. Darrell Issa, he managed to get the increasingly mellow Bill O’Reilly on his side despite saying the only people on the right who would benefit were those in the “conservative entertainment industry.”

Greg Sargent:

I just got off the phone with writer David Frum, and he says the conservative American Enterprise Institute assured him today that he isn’t being fired because of his recent blistering criticism of the GOP, as has been widely speculated this afternoon.


But Frum says AEI president Brooks at lunch today actually lauded him for making so much noise with that post.

“He said the thought might occur to me that this had to do with that,” Frum says. “He wanted to ally my anxieties on that score. He was very empatic.” Frum adds that Brooks said he “welcomed and celebrated” the debate he’d stirred up.

“He asked me if I’d like to work for AEI on a non salary basis,” Frum added. “He said it had nothing to do with my work and that after all these are hard times.”

“Big bad conservative think tank axes writer for criticizing GOP intransigence” is a seductive storyline for our times, but it may not be true.

Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time:

I caught up with Frum after the meeting. “Arthur Brooks insisted that this had nothing to do with my writings,” Frum said, adding that Brooks also did not challenge Frum’s fealty to AEI’s three core principles, which are described on the AEI website as, “expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity, and strengthening free enterprise.”

An AEI spokeswoman, Veronique Rodman, sends over this statement: “While AEI makes it a practice not to discuss personnel matters, I can say that David Frum is an original thinker and a friend to many at AEI. We are pleased to have welcomed him as a colleague for seven years, and his decision to leave in no way diminishes our respect for him.”

So it goes. Is the timing a coincidence? Hard to tell. I guess one can take Arthur Brooks at his word. Or not.

As irritating as Frum can be — and he can be very irritating — most of his policy positions, as far as I know, are reliably conservative. True, he’s a fan of RomneyCare, but then, er, so is the guy who’s at or near the top of the polls right now for the GOP nomination in 2012. And yes, I know, it’s predictable that a Chamberlain-esque RINO candy ass such as myself would defend a guy who whines about Rush Limbaugh at every opportunity, but Bartlett’s point about rigid conformity is well taken. Frum’s still a hawk, at last check; he was a McCain voter in 2008 and prefers market solutions in most cases, from what I know. He’s wrong about the GOP having mishandled O-Care and he’s annoying with his endless scolding of right-wing media, but hopefully it’s still possible to be a conservative who’s wrong (occasionally) and annoying (frequently) and nonetheless employable by a conservative think tank. Currently AEI has as a fellow one of the geniuses who helped craft McCain-Feingold. Ornstein’s conservative enough, but not David Frum?And yes, of course, AEI should be free to employ whomever it wants. Doesn’t mean they should be free from criticism, though, assuming that the suspicions about their motive here are confirmed. Oh, and a reminder to the media, which is surely polishing Frum’s new halo as I write this: When it comes to excommunicating conservatives, he knows whereof he speaks.

Bruce Bartlett:

As some readers of this blog may know, I was fired by a right wing think tank called the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush’s policies, especially his support for Medicare Part D. In the years since, I have lost a great many friends and been shunned by conservative society in Washington, DC.

Now the same thing has happened to David Frum, who has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute. I don’t know all the details, but I presume that his Waterloo post on Sunday condemning Republicans for failing to work with Democrats on healthcare reform was the final straw.

Since, he is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI “scholars” on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn’t already.

Conor Friedersdorf

To sum up: The implication in Mr. Bartlett’s piece is that lots of people at AEI favored most aspects Obamacare — so many people, in fact, that AEI scholars were ordered against commenting on the subject at all. But lots of people at AEI did write publicly on the subject. Put another way, even if a few pro-Obamacare scholars had been silenced, Mr. Bartlett’s piece would be inaccurate as written. Perhaps he misheard Mr. Frum, or else Mr. Frum was mistaken or speaking imprecisely. I’ve followed the work of both men, and I’ve never known either to lie, so I presume there is some good explanation for the mistake.

Were any AEI scholars told to shut up about health care? Was there unspoken pressure? I sent an e-mail to all the folks listed on the think tank’s Web site, offering anonymity to anyone who requested it. I remain willing to expose even a partial vindication of Mr. Bartlett’s charge.

As yet, however, I’ve gotten only a lot of replies like this one from Charles Calomiris:

In all the years of my association with AEI no one ever suggested, much less ordered, that I say or not say anything. Quite the opposite; I was specifically told never to expect any guidance and I was guaranteed it in advance, which is why I was comfortable being involved with AEI for many years. The culture of AEI is completely contrary to attempts at control of academic thinking or speech. Freedom of thought is sacrosanct. I can tell you from personal knowledge that in many other think tanks in Washington that is not the case. At AEI, however, it is hard to imagine that these accusations could be true.

Or this one from Jack Calfee:

I have long admired Frum’s work, although I confess to not having paid much attention to his critiques of Republicans and conservatives. Speaking as one of the AEI health policy scholars, however, the notion that we have been muzzled on health care reform is bizarre. So many op-eds, so many AEI pubs, so many media appearances and interviews and quotes . . . I have to wonder whether David was quoted correctly on this point.

Or this one from Sally Satel:

I have never, ever been instructed/hinted/cajoled on what to say or write.

Or this from Edward Blum:

It has been my experience that AEI does not censor, discourage, or micromanage the work of its scholars and fellows or how they communicate with the press.

Or this from Rick Hess:

i’m curious about the sourcing of the Bartlett claim. i certainly never heard any such thing.

i do know that in my own field (K-12 and higher education), no one at AEI has ever attempted to steer, stifle, or influence my writing or speaking. this is particularly relevant, as much of my own work has been flagged over the years as heartburn-inducing by Bush administration proponents of No Child Left Behind and conservative proponents of school choice. indeed, AEI scholars writing on questions of education– including Charles Murray, Lynne Cheney, Christina Hoff Sommers, Mark Schneider, Andy Smarick, and myself have consistently reflected diverging and oft-contradictory views regarding policy, practice, and aims in our written and spoken work.

indeed, i’ll simply say that in my eight years at AEI I have felt far less intellectually constrained (through formal clearance mechansims or informal social norms) than i did in my previous role as a professor of education and government at the University of Virginia.

Does anyone at AEI have a different experience to relate? The offer of anonymity remains, even if you’re someone who already wrote me expressing a different opinion on the record. Meanwhile, all the folks who ran with the Bruce Bartlett angle — I’m looking at you, Howard Kurtz — should note that whatever else happens at AEI, good or bad, it is undeniably the case that various folks there have been commenting on health care.

Incidentally, the think tank is foolish to lose the talents of David Frum.

Bartlett responds:

To begin with, I think the important thing about what David told me is that I believed it instantly because it seemed very plausible for two reasons. First, I know from personal experience and from private comments by people I know in the conservative think tank community that there is enormous pressure to follow the Republican Party line. Those that dissent keep their mouths shut lest it cost them their job, a promotion, friendships or just because they don’t like to be hassled by those they work with. I’ve known people who shifted their specialties so they wouldn’t have to work in areas where they had objections to the party line that may have only involved tactics.
Second, I knew that there were a great many conservative health analysts who have long accepted the idea that universal coverage without a single-payer system basically requires some sort of individual mandate. Here, for example, is some testimony that Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation gave on this topic a few years ago before the party line changed. Sensible conservatives understand that you can’t cover preexisting conditions without a mandate and you can’t have a mandate without subsidies that have to be paid for. That leads logically to the system Mitt Romney enacted in Massachusetts that is virtually identical to the legislation that has just passed Congress.
So it didn’t surprise me at all that some AEI health specialists would have agreed with much of what Obama was proposing. Nor did it surprise me that the media and fundraising people at AEI might have suggested that they avoid making public comments supportive of the Democrats’ health plan. Before I was fired by NCPA I was often told that my comments critical of George W. Bush were unhelpful to fundraising even though they agreed that I was right on the substance.
I don’t have access to Nexis to check and see what comments AEI fellows might have said in the months before David made his comment to me and things may have changed afterwards. I have no way of knowing what things AEI people may have avoided saying or said off the record or on background to a reporter and were identified as a conservative health expert or whatever. Perhaps David was just wrong and that every AEI health expert was in fact opposed to every provision of the Democratic health plan and completely agreed with the Republican Party line that it was a huge step on the road to socialism that would completely destroy the American health system. I only know what he told me and that it rang true at the time he said it.
If it turns out that I misheard or misunderstood what David told me I promise a full retraction and public apology to AEI. In the meantime, my inclination is to believe anything David tells me and treat with deep skepticism anything I hear from AEI to the contrary. The organization has lost an enormous amount of credibility by firing him and hiring Republican political hacks like Marc Thiessen. That’s a statement I will never need to retract.

Jacob Heilbrunn at Huffington Post:

The banishment of David Frum from the American Enterprise Institute may be one of the best things that’s happened to him. He’s become a cause celebre. As a newly hot commodity, he’ll get gobs of publicity — a New Yorker profile must now be in the offing — and website hits for his fledgling FrumForum. But it’s not good for the conservative movement, which has regarded his efforts to drag it into modernity with increasing consternation.

Frum has long had the right stuff for the right, working at the Wall Street Journal and for the Bush administration. In recent months he’s been staking out somewhat heterodox stands, at least in the context of the conservative movement. Even mild dissent, however, is apparently too much for it to swallow. It has reached the point where, in Bolshevik fashion, it’s devouring its own children.

Is Frum really an apostate, a ranks-breaker? No, he isn’t. I haven’t seen any evidence that Frum, a vigorous polemicist, has fundamentally deviated from traditional conservative positions when it comes to Israel or tax rates. What he has argued for is a more modern Republican party that doesn’t stage a gadarene rush to the far right, but tries to come to terms with environmental issues, health care, and so on. Writing in the Washington Post on Thursday, Anne Applebaum observed that much of what Frum represents is a no-brainer for conservatives, who, like the British Tories, may well find themselves in the wilderness for many years if they refuse to acknowledge new realities.


It is not like we are in love with David Frum, coiner of “Axis of Evil,” and general lover of war. But at least you can have a conversation with the guy, hypothetically!

Whenever we see an article or book from a Reasonable Conservative saying, “We need to tone down the rhetoric and stop following Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh,” though, it never takes the next step: how? Where is the implementation plan? These terrible scourges don’t come out of nowhere; everything follows a system of incentives, the biggest of which would have to be money, followed by short-term power. How do you make the exploitation of fear and constant outright lying and insanity less profitable, and less able to deliver short-term gains? The only solutions seem to be ones that would have the Republican party concede they’re following a failed ideology and must fold permanently or accept general minority party status for the next 25 years.


More Friedersdorf:

On the subject of David Frum, I’ve got a lot to say, and I’ll begin by disclosing a personal story. In January 2009, I had a particularly bad day: the Washington DC based web magazine where I worked folded; and immediately afterward, I got a call informing me that my mom had been diagnosed with cancer, and would soon undergo a significant surgery. I am unsure how Mr. Frum heard about the magazine closing, but he e-mailed to ask if I would call him. On doing so, he offered condolences on a professional disappointment — a nice gesture, especially since I had precious little to offer him as a professional contact, and wasn’t a friend — and when I revealed why the lost job hadn’t been much on my mind, he spoke to me for perhaps twenty minutes longer, conducting himself in a most gentlemanly fashion.

Understand that I hardly knew Mr. Frum. I’d met him perhaps thrice in person, always in a room full of people. Even now I’ve met him perhaps six times. Upon calling me that day, I am certain he didn’t expect me to say that my mother had cancer — what does one even say to a professional acquaintance in that situation, beyond a mumbled, “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.” I still don’t know, because I can’t remember what Mr. Frum said, except that it consoled me greatly at the time, reassuring without being prying or presumptive: It was a polite, well-mannered, graceful, kind-hearted gesture, and it demonstrates two things. 1) The way Mr. Frum conducts himself isn’t intended to ingratiate himself to Washington DC’s liberal elite — he regularly demonstrates social graces on all sorts of occasions utterly unconnected with politics. 2) Probably Mr. Frum isn’t aware of how much he raised my spirits that day, which is another way of saying that being a gentleman — and striving to avoid shrillness, intolerance and boorishness — are commendable virtues and bedrocks of civil society. It is execrable to make civility into a vice, let alone an ideological signifier, as if most Americans don’t value these things regardless of their political beliefs, or benefit from a world where they are practiced.

Of course, David Frum is uncivil sometimes. I recall a line in Newsweek about Rush Limbaugh’s dimensions and manifold personal flaws that he phrased somewhat more harshly than was necessary (talk radio hosts bring out the worst in all of us), I’ve seen him scrap in the blogosphere, as so many of us sometimes do, and I object strongly to some of his rhetoric during the Bush era, when he questioned the motives of Iraq War opponents. But it is to his credit that he tries and usually succeeds in tempering the bad impulses that shadow us all in political argument. And it speaks poorly of anyone who criticizes not his rare failures, but his constant effort to resist them. What normal person wants to be like a boorish, mercenary talk radio host, for goodness sake? Since when are these qualities how conservatives define themselves “aesthetically”?

Other critics say that Mr. Frum is egotistical, disloyal, arrogant, self-important. Beyond the fact that these same people unselfconsciously laud Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity — self-important folks with out-sized egos if ever there were any — it is noteworthy that these criticisms are always offered as though they refute the arguments Mr. Frum is making about a given issue, or a politician, or conservatism, or the future of the Republican Party. It is an intellectual coward or a fraud who tries to discredit ideas by pointing out the alleged, totally irrelevant personality flaws of their advocates.

Love him or hate him, Mr. Frum has been around Washington DC a long time. He possesses knowledge on political history, policy, and politics that is broad and deep. He has an especially curious mind, and a willingness to flout the conventional wisdom, which influences him less than most people. Were movement conservatives less childish, irrational, and defensive in the face of dissidents, they’d learn something — even when he is wrong, he often raises worthwhile points that inform my thinking, much as I might disagree with his ultimate conclusions.

Paul Krugman:

David Frum* has been fired by the American Enterprise Institute; one has to assume that this is a response to his outspokenness about the Republican failure on health reform.

In discussing the Frum firing, Bruce Bartlett asserts that AEI has muzzled its health-care experts, because the truth is that they agree with a lot of what Obama is proposing. I find this quite believable; back in 2003 Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation, which is supposedly harder-right than AEI, proposed a health care reform consisting of … drumroll … an individual mandate coupled with subsidies to make insurance affordable. In short, Obamacare.


*I’m informed, by family members, that Frum is a distant cousin of yours truly.

Mike Allen at Politico:

EXCLUSIVE: David Frum told us last night that he believes his axing from his $100,000-a-year “resident scholar” gig at the conservative American Enterprise Institute was related to DONOR PRESSURE following his viral blog post arguing Republicans had suffered a devastating, generational “Waterloo” in their loss to President Obama on health reform. “There’s a lot about the story I don’t really understand,” Frum said from his iPhone. “But the core of the story is the kind of economic pressure that intellectual conservatives are under. AEI represents the best of the conservative world. [AEI President] Arthur Brooks is a brilliant man, and his books are fantastic. But the elite isn’t leading anymore. It’s trapped. Partly because of the desperate economic situation in the country, what were once the leading institutions of conservatism are constrained. I think Arthur took no pleasure in this. I think he was embarrassed. I think he would have avoided it if he possibly could, but he couldn’t.”

We talked at length afterward with an AEI official in an effort to get a specific response to Frum’s charge. But the group apparently doesn’t want to get into a back-and-forth with Frum, and stuck to this earlier statement from Brooks, blaming Frum for his departure: “David Frum is an original thinker and a friend to many at AEI. We are pleased to have welcomed him as a colleague for seven years, and his decision to leave in no way diminishes our respect for him.” Ask other AEI scholars how they felt about David’s mail and packages piling up outside his office. Frum, who will be 50 in June, had been on the payroll since leaving the Bush White House in 2003. He acknowledges he was very seldom at the office. But he maintains he developed and spread conservative ideas — AEI’s stated goal — with the 300,000 words a year that he writes for his blog, FrumForum.com; his weekly columns for CNN.com, The Week, and the National Post of Canada; his biweekly offerings for TIME and American Public Media’s “Marketplace”; and his three TV and three radio appearances in a typical week. He also landed Canadian Finance Minister James Flaherty for an AEI retreat last month that included donors. Frum tells us that regardless of his dismay with the party, he’ll stay registered GOP.

Charles Murray at The Corner:

I have known and liked David and Danielle Frum for many years, and what I am about to write will end that friendship. I regret that. But his statement goes beyond self-serving. It is a calumny against an organization that has treated him not just fairly but generously.

Regarding donor pressure: The idea that AEI donors sit down to talk with AEI’s president about who should and shouldn’t be on the staff, or what the staff should write, is fantasy. David has never seen the slightest sign of anything like that at AEI. He can’t have. He made it up. AEI has a culture, the scholars are fiercely proud of that culture, and at its heart is total intellectual freedom. As for the reality of that intellectual freedom, I think it’s fair to say I know what I’m talking about. I’ve pushed it to the limit. Arthur Brooks is just as adamant about preserving that culture as Chris DeMuth was, and Chris’s devotion to it was seamless.

I do not have any certain information to convey about David’s departure, except what Arthur Brooks has already said publicly: David resigned. He could have stayed. But I will tell what is common knowledge around AEI: David got a handsome salary but, for the last few years, has been invisible as a member of the institute. Being a scholar at a think tank (or any institution) is not just a matter of acknowledging your affiliation in your books and op-eds. It’s also a matter of blogging at the institute’s blog, not just your own blog (David had a grand total of 3 posts on AEI’s blog in the year since it began), reviewing colleagues’ drafts, reacting to their ideas, contributing chapters to their books, organizing scholarly events, participating on the institute’s panels, attending the institute’s conferences, helping out with fundraising, serving on in-house committees, giving in-house seminars, and mentoring junior staff. Different scholars are engaged in these activities to different degrees. Full disclosure: I’m on the left-hand side of that bell curve (I make the trek from Burkittsville so seldom that I don’t even have an office at AEI). But David was at the left-hand tail. If I had to guess — and that’s what I’m doing, guessing — David’s departure arose from something as simple as this: Management thinks that an employee is not as productive a member of the organization as management thinks he should be. The employee disagrees. They part company.

I think that’s what happened. I also think that for David to have leveled the charge that Arthur Brooks caved in to donor pressure, knowing that the charge would be picked up and spread beyond recall, knowing that such a charge strikes at the core of the Institute’s integrity, and making such a sensational charge without a shred of evidence, is despicable.

Andrew Sullivan has a round-up

Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

Danielle Crittenden at FrumForum:

We have both been part of the conservative movement for, as mentioned, the better part of half of our lives.  And I can categorically state I’ve never seen such a hostile environment towards free thought and debate–the hallmarks of Reaganism, the politics with which we grew up–prevail in our movement as it does today. The thuggish demagoguery of the Limbaughs and Becks is a trait we once derided in the old socialist Left.  Well boys, take a look in the mirror.  It is us now.

David of course doesn’t need my defense–and a defense coming from his wife probably isn’t worth much (although I can categorically state this has been posted without his authorization, approval or even, um,  knowledge–he’s flying somewhere over the country right now).  My role right now is to pass him the flask in the trench.

But to return to Washington and dogs: Along with the bile, there has been an equally considerable outpouring of support and defense, from friends and foes alike, who–whether they agree with David or not–are horrified by the guillotine that is being set up in the public square of democratic debate.  They understand that nothing good can come of this, for anyone of any political stripe.

For this support, we are both very grateful.  And while I wouldn’t have thought it possible to admire David more than I do, I have to say he is still turning this old girl’s head–now more than ever.

UPDATE: Henry Farrell and Daniel Drezner at Bloggingheads

More Frum

More Bartlett

Christopher Buckley at The Daily Beast

Daniel Larison

John Holbo

UPDATE #2: Anne Schroeder Mullins at Politico

Maggie Gallagher at The Corner

Mark Schmitt at The American Prospect

UPDATE #3: Henry Farrell and Brink Lindsey on Bloggingheads


Filed under Conservative Movement, New Media

The California Senate Race And Israel

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

Tom Campbell, who has zipped into the lead in early polls, is quite another story. During his time in the House, Campbell was one of the few Republicans with a consistent anti-Israel voting record. In 1999, he introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel. This amendment, titled the Campbell Amendment, was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-414. In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (also titled the Campbell Amendment) to cut foreign aid to Israel. The resolution failed 9-32 in committee. In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34. But Campbell has taken positions on more than just aid that have raised concerns about his views on Israel. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2000, Campbell, in his losing race against Dianne Feinstein, “told numerous crowds–including Jewish groups–that he believes Palestinians are entitled to a homeland and that Jerusalem can be the capital of more than one nation.”

Philip Klein at American Spectator

Daniel Halper at The Weekly Standard:

In 1999, Rep. Tom Campbell introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel.  This amendment, titled the “Campbell Amendment,” was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-413.

In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing Congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (again, titled the “Campbell Amendment”) to cut foreign aid to Israel.  The resolution failed 9-32 in committee.  This amendment was particularly offensive to the pro-Israel community because it came at the same time that Israel had agreed to a complete phase out of economic aid over a 8-year period.   This was not sufficient for Campbell and his amendment called for an additional cut beyond what had been agreed to.

In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34.

He was a consistent opponent of the Foreign Aid bill which has Israel and Egypt as the largest recipients.

He rarely signed pro-Israel letters as a member of Congress.

Additionally, Tom Campbell endorsed the work of Ms. Allison Weir, who leads an anti-Israel organization called “If Americans Knew.”  This organization calls on the United States to cut financial and diplomatic support for Israel.  Campbell said the following about Ms. Weir’s work at If Americans Knew: “Ms. Weir presents a powerful, well documented view of the Middle East today. She is intelligent, careful, and critical. American policy makers would benefit greatly from hearing her first-hand observations and attempting to answer the questions she poses.”

If Campbell wins the Republican primary, a huge window will open for the incumbent, Barbara Boxer, who will be able to point to her record of supporting Israel in contrast to Campbell’s hostility toward one of America’s closest allies.

More Philip Klein at American Spectator:

Last week, I wrote a post on the anti-Israel voting record of Tom Campbell, a Republican candidate for the California Senate seat currently held by Barbara Boxer. Some readers thought I was being unfair. But today I see, via Jennifer Rubin, that during his 2000 race for the Senate, Campbell received campaign contributions from Sami Al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor who pled guilty to conspiring to help associates of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. (As I noted below, Al-Arian has resurfaced in the news because Obama’s  new envoy to the Muslim world is on record defending him prior to his guilty plea).

I double-checked the Federal Election Commission database, and was able to confirm that on May 2, 2000, Al-Arian made two donations totaling $1,300 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. At the time he made the contributions, as he admits in his plea agreement, Al-Arian was engaged in “Conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a Specially Designated Terrorist…”

In defense of Campbell, one could argue that the donations were made prior to Al-Arian’s guilty plea. But with that said Al-Arian was already under investigation by the government in 2000 and his publicly radical views were known. Also, it’s kind of random for an Islamic radical in Florida to contribute to a Republican Senate campaign in California. The only other political donations listed from Al-Arian were made to Democrats: David Bonior, Jim Davis, and Cynthia McKinney — none of them fans of Israel, and in McKinney’s case, a 9/11 truther. So where does Campbell fit into this picture, and why would Al-Arian want to contribute to him?

More Rubin:

Campbell then responded and shockingly revealed “not only that Al-Arian donated money to his campaign, but that he visited Al-Arian’s brother-in-law (himself associated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad) in prison.” And if that were not enough, he confirms “that when Al-Arian was fired from the University of South Florida (after controversy generated by a Bill O’Reilly report on Al-Arian’s terrorist ties), he sent a letter to the school protesting the action.”

At least we know where Campbell stands on these issues and for whom he chooses to go to bat. Campbell’s opponents have yet to comment on any of this, but if Campbell should make it through the primary, one thing is certain: Sen. Barbara Boxer will certainly beat him over the head with this.

And even more Rubin:

One of his Senate opponents, Carly Fiorina, has now issued a statement raising not only Al-Arian but Tom Campbell’s record on Israel:

“I am deeply troubled by these reports. I think the people of California deserve to know more about Tom Campbell’s association not only with Sami Al-Arian but also his association with other people of questionable record. What is clear is that Tom Campbell and I couldn’t disagree more when it comes to policy regarding our nation’s relationship with Israel. I am an unwavering supporter of Israel and believe strongly that the United States should continue to support and defend the country.”

(Campbell’s previous response on Al-Arian is here.)

It seems that that California Republicans will face a stark choice on foreign policy, Israel, and the war against Islamic fundamentalists, in addition to domestic issues. One can only imagine that Sen. Barbara Boxer must be looking on with extreme interest. If her opponent is Campbell, she surely will have an energized pro-Israel base (Jewish and non-Jewish) of support (financial and otherwise) in the general election.

Jon Ward at The Daily Caller:

Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell hit back Monday at primary opponent Carly Fiorina for saying that he does not support Israel, calling her accusations “desperate” and “bizarre.”

“Carly Fiorina’s latest attack suggesting that I am anti-Israel and pro-jihadist is desperate and irresponsible,” Campbell said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller.

Fiorina, the 55-year old former Hewlett Packard chief executive, said Sunday night that she was “deeply troubled” by recent “reports” about Campbell’s associations with Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian immigrant to the U.S. who was arrested in 2003 for working with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and later pled guilty to providing material support to the group.

Even President Obama’s recently appointed envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference has come under scrutiny for his remarks in the past defending Al-Arian. The envoy, Rashad Hussain, said Friday that his past comments about Al-Arian were “ill-conceived.”

Recent reporting by conservative outlets Commentary Magazine and The American Spectator have focused attention in recent days on Campbell’s receipt of a campaign donation from Al-Arian and his arguments against his firing from the University of South Florida.

“I think the people of California deserve to know more about Tom Campbell’s association not only with Sami Al-Arian but also his association with other people of questionable record,” Fiorina told Commentary Magazine.

“What is clear is that Tom Campbell and I couldn’t disagree more when it comes to policy regarding our nation’s relationship with Israel,” she said. “I am an unwavering supporter of Israel and believe strongly that the United States should continue to support and defend the country.”

Campbell, a 57-year-old former congressman who has led Fiorina and fellow Republican Chuck Devore in polling since switching from the governor’s race to the Senate race in January, hit back Monday, saying that Fiorina was distorting his record and past associations.

“In Congress, I always voted in favor of providing military aid to Israel, and have always supported Israel’s right to defend itself — including taking military action against Iran to prevent its development of nuclear arms,” Campbell said.



–>David Frum at FrumForum:

The criticism of Campbell’s terrorism-and-Israel record rests on 5 main claims:

1)    It’s claimed that Campbell twice voted to cut aid to Israel during his time in Congress.

2)    It’s claimed that Campbell voted against Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

3)    It’s claimed that Campbell made fund-raising appearances before radical Islamic groups.

4)    It’s claimed that Campbell employed on his staff a California Muslim with ties to radical groups.

5)    It’s claimed that Campbell wrote a letter in support of a deportable alien with ties to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Let’s take each in turn.

On 1: These claims turn on a relatively small amount of money, $30 million, less than 1% of Israel’s aid package. As part of the Wye River round of peace talks, President Clinton proposed a $700 million increase in Israel’s economic aid. To embarrass Clinton, congressional Republicans proposed to increase that aid by an additional $30 million. But Congress in those years was operating under pay-go rules that required every spending increase to be matched by a spending cut somewhere else. (Good rule.) So it was proposed to take the extra extra money for Israel out of the allotment for aid to Africa. Campbell happened to be a senior member of the Africa subcommittee of the House International Affairs Committee. He objected to the transfer on the grounds that it was unnecessary for Israel and injurious to important African projects.

It’s important to note – as stated in Campbell’s reply above – Campbell has always supported Israel’s military requests in full. His qualms about economic aid are shared by many Israeli free-market economists who worry that this money may harm Israeli export industries by contributing to the over-valuation of the shekel.

On 2: The Jerusalem vote occurred in 1990. It was introduced by a Democratic member of Congress to embarrass the George H.W. Bush administration. While agreeing in principle that Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital, Campbell acceded to the administration’s request and voted No on this one measure.

On 3: Campbell did indeed speak to Muslim-American groups in the late 1990s. So did Gov. George W. Bush whom nobody would accuse of lack of friendship for Israel – and for the same reason: party strategists had identified Muslim Americans as potential Republican voters. As Ronald Reagan used to say when he was criticized for accepting support from odd groups: “I’m not supporting their agenda. I’m asking them to support mine.”

On 4: The person in question – Suhail Khan – would become a White House colleague of mine in 2001-2002, where he worked in the Office of Public Liaison. I heard many of the same rumors about him then that are being circulated today. I looked into them as searchingly as I could and never found any foundation for them.

Yes it’s true that some dubious characters visited the White House complex in 2001, both before and after the 9/11 attacks. But it’s ridiculous to think that Khan invited them. Khan might meet them at the gate, but the invitations came from a much higher pay grade.

By the way: Suhail Khan now serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union. If he’s a jihadist mole, he has also deceived John Bolton, Tom DeLay, Becky Norton Dunlap, and Allen Roth, among others.

As to Allegation 5:

Campbell’s libertarian sympathies were exploited by some very bad actors.

In 1996, Congress had amended the immigration laws to allow for the deportation of aliens based on secret information of terrorist activities.

The trouble was that for many of the worst such aliens, there was nowhere to deport them to. They ended up languishing in American jails indefinitely.

The family of one such alien appealed to Campbell for help, and he was persuaded to take up the cause.

It was in time publicly confirmed that the alien in question, Mazen al-Najjar, was very, very implicated in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as was his brother-in-law, Sami al-Arian. A deal was eventually struck to send Najjar to Lebanon. After a complex set of criminal proceedings, al-Arian is now awaiting trial on contempt charges.

Campbell has acknowledged that he was wrong and apologized for his mistake. But he did not make this mistake alone.

Candidate George W. Bush for example posed for a photograph with Sami al-Arian in the spring of 2000. Al Arian visited the White House after Bush’s election. When al-Arian’s son was barred from the White House by the Secret Service, the deputy director of the Secret Service was ordered to telephone the young man to apologize.

Bush met with another Islamic extremist, Abdel Rahman al-Amoudi in 2000: Amoudi is now serving a 23 year prison sentence.

During campaign 2000, Bush publicly demanded the repeal of the secret evidence law. He restated his pledge during one of his debates with Al Gore.

The people responsible for these much more serious mistakes have never expressed remorse. Yet they continue to play a respected part in the conservative world. Yet the one person in the affair who has said he was wrong – he’s the one who is supposedly unacceptable? How does that make sense?

Especially since he is the candidate with the clearest and most detailed pro-Israel platform in the California Senate race?

Daniel Larison:

Philip Klein normally has a rather flexible definition of what passes for being “anti-Israel.” As I recall, when J Street held their first conference, he declared that they were an “anti-Israel” organization. So when he asserted earlier this month that California Republican Senate candidate Tom Campbell had an “anti-Israel voting record” I was pretty skeptical. As it turns out, Klein and the others who have embarked on this get-Campbell campaign are amazingly wrong about Campbell and his record. This isn’t some disagreement over emphasis or interpretation of ambiguous statements or actions. The critics have been simply wrong. While it is rather amusing to see foreign policy hawks attempting to tear down one of their own out of sheer ignorance and overreaction, the entire episode over the last week and a half does tell us some more important things about the state of the GOP and conservative movement and about the California Senate race itself.

To take the second point first, we can see that Campbell’s opponents are flailing about in desperation and will employ any claim to attack him, no matter how much misrepresentation it might involve. Since he entered the race, Campbell has enjoyed a comfortable lead in the polls over Fiorina and DeVore, and of the three he has the best polling numbers against Boxer. DeVore was the one to get the ball rolling in attacking Campbell on this point, but he remains a distant third and is mainly running a protest candidacy with little chance of prevailing over the other two. Except for the mostly negative and mocking attention she was able to garner with her weird “demon sheep” ad, Fiorina has not been able to gain much traction, and so she has started trying to exploit Campbell’s tenuous, limited connection with the Al-Arian case. Like her tenure at HP, Fiorina’s campaign has not been going well. What we learn from this is that Campbell’s opponents seem unusually unscrupulous and/or sloppy, and it also tells us that hard-line hawkish policy views are must-haves even within the California GOP primary electorate.

The campaign to cast Campbell as “anti-Israel” started in the camps of his primary competitors, but it was then picked up by some conservative blogs and took on something of a life of its own. Obviously, the unfounded attack was aimed at destroying Campbell’s candidacy within the GOP. This would have had the effect of eliminating or crippling the candidate with the best, albeit still remote, chance of defeating Boxer. Some of the people carrying out the campaign attacking Campbell claimed that they wanted to prevent the GOP from nominating someone with such a grave liability, when the liability, so called, never existed.

What they managed to do instead was to demonstrate their own knee-jerk fanaticism on this question of what is required to be “pro-Israel,” and it shows how ready some movement conservatives are to turn against even those Republican candidates who are reliable hawks when there is the slightest hint of deviation from their own hard line. As it turned out, the “hints” in Campbell’s case were misleading and meaningless. Campbell is safe from continued attacks because he is actually a dangerous and aggressive hawk himself, exemplified by his support for Israeli military action against Iran, but if someone as genuinely hawkish as Campbell can be targeted even temporarily with a smear campaign for being “anti-Israel” there is not going to be much chance for candidates who hold skeptical, realist or non-interventionist views within the Republican electorate. As for Campbell, he will be sure not to risk taking any positions that might be misinterpreted in the future. Of course, the reinforcement of the party line is the point of the exercise, so unfortunately it scarcely matters that some of the enforcers have shredded their credibility in the process.

UPDATE: Philip Klein at AmSpec

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary

David Frum at FrumForum on Klein and Rubin

Jim Antle at AmSpec on Larison

Larison responds to Antle

UPDATE #2: Jim Antle at AmSpec responds to Larison

Larison responds to Antle

Pejman Yousefzadeh at New Ledger with an interview with Campbell

UPDATE #3: Jacob Heilbrunn at National Interest

UPDATE #4: Tim Mak at FrumForum


Filed under Israel/Palestine, Political Figures

Dan Quayle Speechwriter Arrested (And Yeah, He Also Helped Find Water On The Moon)

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

There’s nothing like a good, diverting spy scandal.  The FBI today arrested an eminent space scientist, Stewart David Nozette, and charged him with espionage. He allegedly agreed to sell information about American nuclear weapons to an operative of Israel’s Mossad — only the agent turned out to be an uncover FBI agent. Nozette was the principal investigator on the NASA team that discovered water on the moon. But he spent years as a top scientist at the Department of Energy, where he specialized in satellite technology. According to CBS News, his work for an Israeli defense/aerospace consulting company owned by the Israeli government — work that involved providing unspecified but presumably sensitive technical assistance — brought him to the attention of investigators. The affidavit alleges that Nozette secreted two computer drives out of the company and brought them to a third country.  What he did with them — and what was contained on those disks the FBI isn’t saying. From the FBI release, it’s hard to figure out what he might have given the Israelis when he worked for them.  Left somewhat vague is what he tried to sell to the undercover agent. But his resume provides a clue.

Take it as a given that Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile and its half dozen nuclear facilities in the country are targets for U.S. espionage — be it from the the SIGINT satellites tasked by the National Security Agency to the imagery satelittes run by the National Reconaissance Office.  At the Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Defense Agency, Nozette ran a program that focused on dual-use nuclear compliance monitoring satellites. The Clementine satellite that discovered water on the moon was, before it was used by civilian scientists, a platform for a sohpisticated nuclear compliance sensor. Among the technologies that Clementine validated was a capacity to peer beneath the ground — one of the ways that hidden water was discovered.


No doubt that Nozette would be in a good position to know how easily it is for U.S. technologies to pierce the veil of Israel’s secret nuke program.

Eli Lake and Ben Conery at Washington Times:

Stewart David Nozette, 52, worked in top government jobs from 1989 to 2000 and had access to military satellite programs and nuclear weapons programs, according to court papers that were unsealed Monday after the scientist was arrested at his Chevy Chase home.

According to Mr. Nozette’s biography at NASA.gov, he played a lead role in developing the Clementine bistatic radar. The radar, which discovered water on the South Pole of the moon, can be used to track ballistic missiles.

The criminal complaint against Mr. Nozette cryptically notes that on or near Jan. 6, the scientist traveled to “foreign country A” with two computer thumb drives. Upon his return to the United States, an officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection “could not locate the thumb drives that been in Nozette’s possession when he had left the United States,” the complaint said.

Prior to that trip, Mr. Nozette “informed a colleague that if the United States government tried ‘to put him in jail’ [based on an unrelated criminal offense], Nozette would move from the United States to Israel or foreign country A [not Israel], and ‘tell them everything’ he knows,” the indictment said.

Court records show that Mr. Nozette was under federal criminal investigation over allegations that he defrauded NASA through the Alliance for Competitive Technology, a company he founded. In 2007, federal agents executed a search warrant at his Maryland home and the offices of this company.

Laura Rozen at Politico:

Here’s an interview Nozette previously gave to NASA, where he described how he got interested in space. And here’s an interview he gave last October to India’s NDTV on a joint NASA-Indian Space Research Organzation collaboration to search for water on the moon. The mission apparently had serious problems. He was scheduled to speak at Mississippi State University last week.

Nozette wrote this 1985 oped in the New York Times advocating commercial spin-offs from the Reagan-era Star Wars/Strategic Defense Initiative program, with which he was involved.


Israeli daily Haaretz reports that the Israeli government owned aerospace company that Nozette consulted for is Israel Aircraft Industries.

(Incidentally, Yosef Yagur, the alleged Israeli handler of an elderly American man Ben-Ami Kadish arrested last year in an old age home in New Jersey for having passed classified information to Israel in the 1980s, was also previously ostensibly employed by Israel Aircraft Industries (along with Kadish’s brother). Kadish later reached a plea deal with the US. Yagur had also reportedly received information from Jonathan Pollard.)

Jacob Heilbrunn at National Interest:

Nozette may have been a good scientist, but he appears to have been a bad spy. He was unquestionably reckless. In 2007, federal agents searched his offices, prompting him to tell colleagues that he would reveal everything he knows, the Washington Post reports, if charged with a crime. The Post further says that Nozette worked as a “technical consultant for an unnamed aerospace firm that the Israeli government owned.” It is this work that could produce complications for the Israeli government. Was Nozette already providing Israel with secret information in his capacity as a technical consultant?

He was paid $225,000 from 1998–2008 for his services as a consultant. This alone is now bound to serve as a red flag for critics of Israel, let alone the conspiracy-minded. With both the Jonathan Pollard affair and the more recent case of former–Pentagon employee Lawrence Franklin lurking in the background, there is already plenty of fodder for those convinced that Israel and America’s interests are inimical and that American Jews are guilty, by definition, of dual loyalty. Franklin is a PR headache by remaining so visible in such a nutty way, just as Nozette is a nuisance because even if he wasn’t spying for Israel, it still gets the blame for his activities. But in this regard, Nozette’s avarice may be something of a good thing. It would offer a clear and simple explanation for his alleged traitorous behavior that has nothing to do with a belief in Zionism or the Jewish state. Still, there is the matter of the Israeli passport that Nozette asked for from his FBI handlers . . .

So the Nozette case will probably never be settled to the satisfaction of Israel’s adversaries. Instead, a new round of finger-pointing at the Jewish state is surely in the offing. Whether there is much to point at, however, will become clearer in the next few days. With high-level talks taking place in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear program and Washington convulsed by a debate over Afghanistan, the Nozette case couldn’t have come at a better time for Israel. With any luck, it will quickly disappear from the headlines—at least until the next Israeli spy case pops up.

Taylor Marsh:

The most hilarious part is that Nozette admitted that he no longer had access or security clearance, but that he could “recall the classified information to which he had been granted access, indicating that it was all still in his head.”

In the end it was all about the money, Nozette making sure his contact knew he needed the cash to be delivered in “under ten thousand” deposits. He was captured on videotape at a drop box delivering information that was “Top Secret and Secret that concerned U.S. satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information, and major elements of defense strategy.”

Laura Rozen has an interesting tidbit in her post on the matter. We learn that Nozette used to write speeches for Dan Quayle and worked in Bush 41’s White House.

UPDATE: J.E. Dyer at Commentary

UPDATE #2: Justin Elliott at TPM

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Filed under Israel/Palestine, Science