Tag Archives: Joe Klein

The End Of Joementum

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

I have mixed feelings about the departure of Senator Joe Lieberman from public life. I’ve had fierce disagreements with him in recent years, especially in the area of foreign policy–especially in the middle east, where he is an ardent Likudnik. He has taken positions that are more reflective of what he believes to be Israel’s best interests–in favor of bombing Iran, for example–than they are of U.S. national security goals (although I do believe he actually thinks Israel’s interests and ours are the same). His support for the dramatically unpresidential John McCain against Barack Obama was execrable. Indeed, his willingness to attach himself to McCain’s hip during foreign jaunts diminished his stature as a Senator.

But I’ve never known Lieberman to be rude or mean-spirited. I’ve always known him to be a good guy–and on the vast majority of non-foreign policy issues, he usually took positions that were carefully reasoned and sometimes courageous. His work on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was rightly celebrated. But his efforts to build a bipartisan energy bill–with a price on carbon emissions–really was heroic last year. I hope he’ll continue to press that issue in his last Congressional session; I hope he’ll be able to rope Lindsey Graham–and perhaps even crotchety McCain–back into the fold, as well as other Republicans who must realize that reducing our dependence on foreign oil has become an absolute economic and national defense necessity, even if they doubt the obvious data on climate change.

Ezra Klein:

If you look back over the past two years, perhaps the most consequential decision made by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was to give Joe Lieberman his chairmanship, even though Lieberman had endorsed John McCain in the 2008 campaign.

That kept Lieberman in the fold, and after Arlen Specter switched parties and Al Franken won his election, gave Democrats the 60 votes they needed to break a Republican filibuster against health-care reform. Lieberman’s behavior during the debate was often erratic and seemingly unprincipled. Among other things, he skipped the meetings where Democrats were trying to work out a compromise on the public option, and then he killed the Medicare buy-in proposal they’d developed — despite endorsing that exact proposal months before. In doing so, he doomed a great piece of policy, and by doing it at the last minute, endangered the rest of the bill, too. But the reality is that the legislation simply wouldn’t have passed without his vote. And after extracting his pound of flesh, he voted “aye.”

That wasn’t Lieberman’s only moment as a good soldier for the Democrats: He was one of the key senators behind the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He was also one of the three lawmakers involved in the most credible of the efforts to pass a cap-and-trade bill. The legislation failed, but if it had succeeded, it would’ve been in no small part due to his hard work. And Lieberman was loyal to his party in other ways, too. He was Harry Reid’s single largest donor in the Senate, for instance.

Robert Farley at Lawyers Guns and Money responds:

We can agree that the decision to keep Joe Lieberman in the fold ended up as a net positive for the Democrats, and should be counted as one of the better moves by Obama and Reid. However, what Ezra describes here is behavior that is slightly below the minimal acceptable standards for a Democratic Senator in the 111th Congress. It’s quite above the Expected Joe Lieberman Value standard, but this merely acknowledges that the EJLV was staggeringly low. It would be better to say that Joe Lieberman performed substantially below (his leadership on DADT notwithstanding) what we would have expected from Senator Lamont. This is to say that if Ned Lamont had behaved in such a fashion, we would have been surprised, disappointed, and angered.

Joe ain’t all that, and we should be glad that he’s heading for retirement

Jennifer Rubin:

I had a couple thoughts. First, he did run for vice president in 2000 and helped to make it razor-close in Florida. (According to the Democrats, he actually helped Al Gore win the state.) He cast mulitple votes for liberal Supreme Court justices and, of course, delivered on the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And he could have, but did not, abandon the Democrats on cloture on ObamaCare. In a rational world, he would be lionized by the Democratic Party.

But Ezra, I think, asks the wrong question. Lieberman’s entire career was not about being good for the party, it was about being true to his own deeply-held principles. Last year, I wrote a lengthy piece on Lieberman, pointing out that it was precisely his refusal to adhere to the party line that made him a villain on the left.

The correct question, I would suggest, is whether Lieberman was good for America. He championed a robust human rights policy, was indefatigable on national security, strove for a bipartisanship on foreign policy (which now actually seems possible), generally favored pro-growth economic policies and was an unabashed patriot.

Liberals loves a “maverick” — so long as he or she (e.g. Sens. John McCain, Arlen Specter, Susan Collins) is on the other side. But, they tolerate hardly at all those Democrats who don’t check the box on every item on the left-wing agenda.

It is a pity. For if there is one lawmaker who put country above party, practiced civility, and represented “no labels,” it was Joe Lieberman. He’ll be missed — by the Senate and the country, if not the party that was his home for nearly all of his political career.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Lieberman’s final departure from the party became inevitable when he supported, and enthusiastically campaigned for, John McCain in 2008. It’s one thing for a Dixecrat in a Southern state to do that fifty years ago, but Connecticut is one of the more liberal states in the country. After that, Lieberman had no plausible path to return to the Senate.

The most interesting question may be why Lieberman took this suicidal path. My guess would be that he didn’t consider it suicide. Lieberman is a true believing New Democrat who is influenced by the neoconservatives. One common thread uniting these two strands of thought is an overly-developed fear of McGovernism. George McGovern, the very liberal Democratic nominee in 1972, lost in a landslide, and his defeat ever since has been held up as evidence that middle America rejects and always will reject unvarnished liberalism. I think there’s some truth to that but it’s an oversimplified view.

The point, though, is that Lieberman is almost certainly a true believer in the legend. And you have to remember that, when Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, a lot of centrists and neoconservatives viewed him as the heir to McGovern and a likely loser. In Lieberman’s mind, I would submit, Obama was the heir to McGovern, and after he went down to defeat at the hands of popular maverick John McCain, Lieberman would be well-positioned to say “I told you so.” He could then tell Democrats that only his brand of moderate Democratic politics could truly prevail, and the sadder but wiser party base would trudge back to his column.

Obviously, I’m speculating. It’s highly unusual for a competent politician to take such a suicidal step. It’s possibly Lieberman knew what he was doing when he sealed his own fate in 2008, but I think he really believed he could survive.

Daniel Larison:

Chait’s speculation is plausible, but I would add a little more. Lieberman’s decision to back McCain later on was very likely influenced by the debate over the “surge” in early 2007. Along with Lieberman, McCain was one of the most vocal supporters of the new plan, and Obama was one of many to voice skepticism and opposition to it. By the summer of 2008, a fairly conventional, mistaken view on the right and in many mainstream media organizations was that the “surge” had “worked,” and that Obama had judged incorrectly. This gave Lieberman something specific to which he could link his (baseless) fear of a new McGovern.

When Lieberman returned to the Senate in 2007, he had just come out of a general election in which practically the only people in the national media who vocally supported him were McCain’s reliably hawkish supporters in the GOP, including many prominent neoconservatives. These had been the people wailing and gnashing their teeth about the “purge” of Lieberman in the summer of 2006, and they became Lieberman’s cheering section because of their common support for the war in Iraq. Lieberman’s victory was their one consolation in an election that drove the GOP out of power largely because of the war in Iraq. The ideological and political alliance between Lieberman and hawkish interventionists in the GOP became stronger than any residual partisan attachment Lieberman might have had, and so endorsing McCain must have seemed the obvious sequel to his independent run for the Senate. For that reason, my guess is that Lieberman would have backed McCain even if Clinton had been the Democratic nominee, because she had also opposed the “surge,” which was an inexcusable error for people who viewed the war as Lieberman did.

Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos:

We were going to kick his ass, and it was going to feel great.

But I’ll take it. One way or another, Connecticut will have a real Democrat representing the state in that seat, and America will be much better for it.

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Tucson II

Andrew Sullivan has a round-up of reacts.

David Frum at FrumForum:

What a terrible assignment, especially for a father of young daughters. The president did the job he needed to do, struck the appropriate notes in the appropriate way. He conspicuously forbore to make political points, quite the contrary: he urged against finger-pointing, in this sense agreeing with Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. “But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.  As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.”

The president’s challenge, as so often, was to make a human connection. In that, he succeeded tonight. He paid tribute to the individuality of the lost, honored the pain of the bereaved, and was crucial in bringing together the collective community acknowledgement of grief that is the only available comfort to those who mourn.
Rich Lowry at The Corner:

The pep-rally atmosphere was inappropriate and disconcerting, but President Obama turned in a magnificent performance. This was a non-accusatory, genuinely civil, case for civility, in stark contrast to what we’ve read and heard over the last few days. He subtly rebuked the Left’s finger-pointing, and rose above the rancor of both sides, exactly as a president should. Tonight, he re-captured some of the tone of his famous 2004 convention speech. Well done.

Michelle Malkin:

Bottom line:

Speeches and leadership are not the same thing.

Obama delivered one tonight, but failed at the other over the past three days as Pima County Sheriff Dupnik, Democrat Party leaders, and media abettors poisoned the public square with the very vitriol the president now condemns.

Right speech. Too late. Awful, awful venue.

Obama gets some goodreviews for hisspeech in the NY Times (and the sun rose in the east…).  Having read the speech, I am a bit of a non-believer – as with his condemnation of both Jeremiah Wright and his own grandmother or the criticism of left-winger Bill Ayers and offsetting righty Tom Coburn, Obama took his normal conciliatory tack of rebuking both sides and presenting himself as the calm man in the middle.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Barack Obama spoke to the city of Tucson, and to the United States of America, not so much as our President tonight, but as a member of our family. He spoke as a son–I couldn’t help but think of his personal regret over not being by his mother’s side when she passed as he said, “Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.” You could see the devastation insinuate itself onto, and then be quietly willed away from, his face. He spoke as a brother to his fellow public servants, killed and wounded in the events–an eager brother bringing the glad tidings the Gabrielle Giffords had opened her eyes. He repeated it, joyously, three times. But most of all, he spoke as a father–rising to a glorious peak describing the departed 9-year-old, Christine Taylor Green, a girl near the age of his daughters, whose own deaths, perhaps in the line of fire, he had so clearly been thinking about. And he spoke, more broadly, as the head of our national family, comforting, uplifting, scolding a little, nudging us toward our better angels.

Some of my friends may criticize Obama for not defending Palin specifically, or for waiting until the memorial to have rebuked those attempting to exploit the deaths for political gain.  On the first point, though, this was a memorial service and it wouldn’t have been appropriate to name other names than the dead, the wounded, and the heros who helped save lives.  The second point may be germane criticism of the previous couple of days, but even if it came late, Obama stepped up and led last night.

So kudos to President Obama for what may be the finest moment of his presidency.  I disagree with his policies and many of his tactics, and I will have no problem getting back to work in opposing them after this post publishes.  But he deserves credit and gratitude for his leadership at a point in time where the nation needed it, and I’m happy to give him both.

James Fallows:

The standard comparisons of the past four days have been to Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster and Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City. Tonight’s speech matched those as a demonstration of “head of state” presence, and far exceeded them as oratory — while being completely different in tone and nature. They, in retrospect, were mainly — and effectively — designed to note tragic loss. Obama turned this into a celebration — of the people who were killed, of the values they lived by, and of the way their example could bring out the better in all of us and in our country.

That is to Obama’s imaginative credit. (Even as the event began, I was wondering how he would find a way to match to somber tone of Reagan and Clinton.) More later, but a performance to remember — this will be, along with his 2004 Convention speech and his March, 2008 “meaning of race” speech in Philadelphia, one of the speeches he is lastingly known for — and to add to the list of daunting political/oratorical challenges Obama has not merely met but mastered.

David Weigel:

Last night, there arose a chorus of mostly-conservatives on Twitter attacking the tone of the memorial service in Tucson. There was some coverage on Fox News — there’s some more today — of this, but it didn’t define coverage. Nonetheless, Glenn Thrush reports that Robert Gibbs was asked about it, and surmised that the 13,000-odd people in attendance were “celebrating the miracle of those who survived” when they cheered.

We have a point of reference for all of this. In 2002, conservatives and Republicans complained that the tone of a memorial for Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) was too political, too cheery. Wellstone’s sons explicitly asked the crowd — which included Republicans like Trent Lott — to “win this election for Paul Wellstone.”

Is that going to happen to the Tucson memorial? It shouldn’t. There was no partisan political message, although I suppose you could say that the president’s criticism of “cynicism or vitriol” buttressed what Democrats had been saying recently. I’d also argue that the tone in Tucson was more like the tone at the impromptu rally in New York City on September 13, 2001 —  the “bullhorn moment.” Wellstone was killed in an airplane accident. The Tucson victims were killed by a gunman who is awaiting trial and whose creepy smiling face has been made famous since Saturday. Thousands of New Yorkers — people didn’t know how many at the time — were killed by terrorists who committed suicide, but were led by terrorists still on the loose. (“The people who did this,” in Bush’s phrase.)

It isn’t up to anyone else how somebody grieves a local tragedy. And the tone at Tucson was understandable if you understand what, exactly, they were grieving or angry about.

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DADT Dead, And Only Seventeen Years Old

Scott Wong at Politico:

The Senate voted Saturday to repeal the ban on gays in the military, marking a major victory for gay rights and an impending end to the 17-year old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The bill now heads to President Barack Obama, who plans to sign it into law, overturning what repeal advocates believed was a discriminatory policy that has unfairly ended the careers of thousands of gay members of the military.

The 65-31 Senate vote marked a historic — and emotional — moment for the gay-rights movement and handed Obama a surprising political triumph in the closing days of the 111th Congress. The legislation had been left for dead as recently as last week when Senate Republicans blocked efforts to advance it. But on final passage, the bill won the support of eight Republicans, an unexpectedly high total.
Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Earlier in the day, the Senate voted 63-33 to invoke cloture. Six Republicans voted in favor of doing so: Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Mark Kirik, Scott Brown, Lisa Murkowski, and George Voinovich. On the final vote, two conservatives, John Ensign and Richard Burr, joined in to support repeal.

Of that entire group, the only Senator whose view on the subject I credit even slightly is Scott Brown, who has served for 30 years in the National Guard. But Brown must run for re-election in left-liberal Massachusetts. And, political calculation aside, I do not credit Brown’s views nearly as much as those of, for example, John McCain, a true expert in military affairs whose son serves in the Marines and opposes repeal.

It’s clear to me that there will come a day when DADT can be repealed without an appreciable risk to the military and its personnel, such as the risk described by Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the Marines, of American soldiers dying on the battlefield as a result of the decrease in unit cohesion he thinks repeal will produce. The testimony of Gen. Amos, and the data contained in the Pentagon’s study showing the views of the people who actually fight for this country, led me to conclude that day has not yet arrived.

Andrew Sullivan:

It’s been more than three decades since Leonard Matlovich appeared on the cover of Time magazine. It’s been more than two decades since this struggle began to reach the realm of political possibility. From the painful non-compromise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, through the big increase in discharges under president Clinton, via the wars and civil marriage breakthroughs of the first decade of the 21st Century to the calm and reasoned Pentagon report of December 2010, the path has been uneven. We need to remember this. We need to remember constantly that any civil rights movement will be beset with reversals, with dark periods, with moments when the intensity of the despair breaks the hardiest of souls.

But we should also note that what won in the end was facts and testimony and truth. There is no rational basis to keep qualified and dedicated gays from serving in the military. It was confidence in this truth – not assertion of any special identity or special rights – that carried us forward. And the revelation of the actual lives and records of gay servicemembers – all of whom came out of the closet and risked their livelihoods to testify to the truth – has sunk in widely and deeply. These men and women had the courage to serve their country and then the courage to risk their careers, promotions, pensions, salaries and, in some cases, lives to bring this day about. They represent an often silent majority of gay men and women who simply want to belong to the families and country and churches and communities they love, and to contribute to them without having to lie about themselves. This, in the end, was not about the right to be gay, but the right to serve America. Like all great civil rights movements, it is in the end about giving, not taking.

William Kristol at The Weekly Standard:

Now that the lame duck Democratic Congress has repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the new Congress will have to see to it that the Obama administration manages the implementation of repeal responsibly, and that the concerns of military leaders and troops are taken seriously. But over the next two years Congress can do something else. It can take an interest in ensuring that discrimination against ROTC on college campuses ends.

Though ROTC was kicked off campuses like Harvard, Yale and Columbia before gays in the military was ever an issue, DADT became the excuse offered by those universities in recent years for continuing to discriminate against ROTC. The excuse is gone. One trusts the presidents and trustees of colleges that have been keeping ROTC at arm’s length, allegedly because of DADT, will move posthaste to ensure a hearty welcome and full equality for ROTC at their universities. One would expect that patriotic alumni of those universities would insist on quick action. One would hope that prominent individuals, like Yale alum Joe Lieberman, who played so crucial a role in ending DADT, would lose no time in writing president Richard Levin to urge the re-installing of ROTC at Yale, that Crimson alums like Chuck Schumer will be in touch with Harvard president Drew Faust, and that Columbia graduate Barack Obama will weigh in with Fair Columbia’s Lee Bolling

Doug Mataconis

Bryan Fischer:

It’s past time for a litmus test for Republican candidates. This debacle shows what happens when party leaders are careless about the allegiance of candidates to the fundamental conservative principles expressed in the party’s own platform.

Character-driven officers and chaplains will eventually be forced out of the military en masse, potential recruits will stay away in droves, and re-enlistments will eventually drop like a rock.

The draft will return with a vengeance and out of necessity. What young man wants to voluntarily join an outfit that will force him to shower naked with males who have a sexual interest in him and just might molest him while he sleeps in his bunk

This isn’t a game, and the military should never be used, as is now being done, for massive social re-engineering. The new Marine motto: “The Few, the Proud, the Sexually Twisted.” Good luck selling that to strong young males who would otherwise love to defend their country. What virile young man wants to serve in a military like that?

If the president and the Democrats wanted to purposely weaken and eventually destroy the United States of America, they could not have picked a more efficient strategy to make it happen.

Rarely can you point to a moment in time when a nation consigned itself to the scrap heap of history. Today, when the Senate normalized sexual perversion in the military, was that moment for the United States. If historians want a fixed marker pointing to the instant the United States sealed its own demise, they just found it.

It won’t happen overnight, but happen it will.

And Republicans did not just stand around and watch as our military was shredded before their very eyes, they helped it happen. Shame on them all.

Confederate Yankee:

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association wrote that, either fearing that the most combat-hardened military in world history is ripe for the picking, or perhaps, he’s just guilty of a little fantasizing of his own.

His is an absurd position, one that portrays gay soldiers as uncontrollable rutting beasts, and our straight servicemen as docile sheep waiting to raped. Such a point of view is hysterical and illogical and shows that those holding such views think very little of the professionalism of all soldiers regardless of their sexual preference.

It also taps into a deep-seated phobia that some seem to have that homosexuality is a communicable disease, and that soldiers that serve with gay soldiers could be “turned gay.”

I wish I was joking, but the folks who hold these views are dead serious. Some are borderline frantic, apparently unaware that tens of thousands of gays serve in the military right now. This kind of freakish paranoia brings out the worse in some people, and in some, it simply seems to be striking fears that their own sexuality isn’t quite as black and white as they profess it to be.

I find a gay soldier willing to sacrifice his life for my family’s safety to be on much firmer moral ground than a sputtering viper like Fischer the serves up division and fear.

Perhaps that is the greatest irony; a professed Christian, Fischer certainly seems to be batting for the other team.

Oliver Willis:

Finally, the idiotic and anti-freedom “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been rightfully placed in history’s dustbin. Sure, it took too long to happen and shouldn’t have been in place in the first place (lasting all the way to the 21st century!) but at the end of the day it will be signed into law by President Obama and that’s a good thing.

Kudos to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid for this passage, and even to the Republicans who kept their promise for a change and voted for repeal.

Getting rid of discriminatory policies like this are part of the neverending American move towards progress and while regressive demagogues like John McCain and Louie Gohmert will always do the best they can to halt the inevtiable – they will ultimately be defeated.

America just got better.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

McCain distinguished himself doubly this weekend, opposing the Dream Act and leading the opposition to “Don’t Ask,” despite the very public positions of his wife and daughter on the other side of the issue. I used to know a different John McCain, the guy who proposed comprehensive immigration reform with Ted Kennedy, the guy–a conservative, to be sure, but an honorable one–who refused to indulge in the hateful strictures of his party’s extremists. His public fall has been spectacular, a consequence of politics–he “needed” to be reelected–and personal pique. He’s a bitter man now, who can barely tolerate the fact that he lost to Barack Obama. But he lost for an obvious reason: his campaign proved him to be puerile and feckless, a politician who panicked when the heat was on during the financial collapse, a trigger-happy gambler who chose an incompetent for his vice president. He has made quite a show ever since of demonstrating his petulance and lack of grace.

What a guy.

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Barack, Bibi, And The Bomber Boys

Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic:

It is possible that at some point in the next 12 months, the imposition of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is also possible that Iran’s reform-minded Green Movement will somehow replace the mullah-led regime, or at least discover the means to temper the regime’s ideological extremism. It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way. It is also possible that President Obama, who has said on more than a few occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” will order a military strike against the country’s main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.

But none of these things—least of all the notion that Barack Obama, for whom initiating new wars in the Middle East is not a foreign-policy goal, will soon order the American military into action against Iran—seems, at this moment, terribly likely. What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.)

In these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.

When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel—regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program—they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations.

If a strike does succeed in crippling the Iranian nuclear program, however, Israel, in addition to possibly generating some combination of the various catastrophes outlined above, will have removed from its list of existential worries the immediate specter of nuclear-weaponized, theologically driven, eliminationist anti-Semitism; it may derive for itself the secret thanks (though the public condemnation) of the Middle East’s moderate Arab regimes, all of which fear an Iranian bomb with an intensity that in some instances matches Israel’s; and it will have succeeded in countering, in militant fashion, the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which is, not irrelevantly, a prime goal of the enthusiastic counter-proliferator who currently occupies the White House.

Steve Clemons at the Washington Note:

In an important article titled “The Point of No Return” to be published in The Atlantic tomorrow, national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg recounts something many people didn’t realize at the time and still have a hard time believing. President George W. Bush knocked back Dick Cheney’s wing of the foreign policy establishment – both inside and out of his administration – that wanted to launch a bombing campaign against Iran. In a snippet I had not seen before, Bush mockingly referred to bombing advocates Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer as “the bomber boys.”

George W. Bush was showing his inner realist not allowing his own trigger-happy Curtis LeMays pile on to the national security messes the US already owned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But that was several years ago. Today, there is a new US President, more Iranian centrifuges, and a different Israeli Prime Minister – and Bibi Netanyahu seems closer to a Curtis LeMay, John Bolton or Frank Gaffney than he does to the more containment-oriented Eisenhowers and George Kennans who in their day forged a global equilibrium out of superpower rivalry and hatred.

Goldberg, after conducting dozens of interviews with senior members of Israel’s national security establishment as well as many top personalities in the Obama White House, concludes in his must-read piece that the likelihood of Israel unilaterally bombing Iran to curtail a potential nuclear weapon breakout capacity is north of 50-50.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

I’m not sure I miss Bush’s penchant for nicknames (mine was “Joe Boy”): it was far too frat boy by a lot. But occasionally the President struck gold, as Jeff Goldberg reports in a new piece previewed by Steve Clemons today: he called Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer “the bomber boys,” after their obsession with going to war with Iran–an obsession Bush eschewed in his more reasonable second term, when he retrieved his foreign policy from the Cheney Cult.

In the end, Bush was completely overmatched by the presidency. His time in office–the tax cuts, the Iraq war, the torture, the slipshod governance, the spending on programs like Medicare prescription drugs without paying for them, the deficits, the failure to foresee the housing bubble–was ruinous for the country. But I’ve got to say that “Bomber Boys” is a keeper. Kristol and Krauthammer are hereby branded for life.

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary:

It is more likely that the president and his advisers are more worried about validating the Bush doctrine that a preemptive strike is justified when the threat of a rogue regime getting hold of a weapon of mass destruction is on the table. Everything this administration has done seems to indicate that it sees a potential strike on Iran as more of a threat to the world than the Iranian bomb itself. Since Obama is almost certainly more afraid of another Iraq than he is of a genocidal threat to Israel’s existence, it is difficult to believe that he will take Hitchens’s advice.

Instapundit:

I think some people in Washington — and elsewhere — have been letting the Israelis twist in the wind in the hopes that Israel will solve our Iran problems for us, and take the blame. I don’t think these “leaders” will like the outcome, and if I were the Israelis I wouldn’t be trying too hard to make it pleasant. Irresponsibility can be expensive.

Rick Moran:

Goldberg notes that with success, the Israelis will buy time (probably putting the Iranian program back 3-5 years), earn the secret thanks of most of the moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East, and will have stopped potential proliferation to terrorist groups in its tracks.

Is that worth initiating a strike that could lead to World War III?

What will the Russians do if the Israeli’s hit Bushehr? It is likely they will kill Russian technicians in such a strike since they are building the facility under contract with Tehran. Will Vladmir Putin take the death of Russian scientists and technicians lying down? What if he retaliates against Israel? What would be the American response to that?

August, 1914?

Unleashing Hezb’allah against the western world, stirring up trouble in Iraq by ordering the Shia militias into the streets, not to mention a missile campaign against Israel that could kill thousands (at which point Israel may decide that to save its people, it must expand its own bombing campaign, escalating the conflict to the next level) – this alone could ratchet up tensions causing the world to start choosing up sides.

And no America with the will or the self-confidence to step in and assist the world in standing down.

Obama’s foreign policy is not anti-American, unpatriotic, or designed to favor Muslims. It’s just weak. The president has made the conscious decision that the US is too powerful and needs to defer to supra-national organizations like the UN, or regional line ups like NATO or the Arab League when conflict is threatened. “First among equals” is not rhetoric to Obama. He means it. He has been thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea that most of the world’s troubles have been caused by a too-powerful United States and hence, only deliberately eschewing the promotion of American interests can redress this sin.

This will be the first world crisis since the end of World War II where American power and prestige will not be used to intervene in order to prevent catastrophe. Obama is betting the farm that his worldview will be more conducive to defusing a crisis than the more realpolitik and pragmatic point of view that has dominated American foreign policy for 65 years.

We are shortly going to find out whether good intentions really matter in international affairs

Allah Pundit:

Somehow it manages to be both harrowing and mundane: No matter what Obama and Netanyahu end up doing or not doing, the Middle East is sure to be a more dangerous place in a year or two than it is even now — and yet we’ve been headed towards that Catch-22 for years, dating well back into the Bush administration. As dire as they are, the strategic calculations have become sufficiently familiar — a bombing run might not disable the program, might only postpone it for a year or two, might touch off a regional war with America in the middle — that I bet most readers will either glance at the piece or pass on it entirely as old news. The Iranian program is like having a bomb in your lap knowing that any wire you cut will detonate it, so you sit there and fidget with it in hopes that it’ll just sort of fizzle out on its own. Sit there long enough and even a situation as dangerous as that will start to seem boring. Until the bomb goes off.

Doug Mataconis:

I honestly don’t know what the answer to the Iranian nuclear question is.

The prospect of the likes of the Islamic Republic possession nuclear weapons is not something I look forward to. Then again, I’m still not all that comfortable with the idea of Pakistan having nuclear weapons, and don’t get me started about North Korea. Nonetheless, Pakistan has had those weapons for more than a decade now and they haven’t used them. Even same goes for North Korea. Both countries, of course, have engaged in nuclear proliferation, and that may be the greatest danger of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, not that they’d use them, but that they’d teach others how to make them.  It’s entirely possible, then, that a nuclear-armed, or nuclear-capable, Iran, may not end up being as much of a threat as we fear.

Israel, however, doesn’t seem to be inclined to wait to find out how things will turn out. Their current leadership views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat to Israel and, whether or not that is actually true, they’re likely to act accordingly. Unfortunately, their actions are likely to have consequences that we’ll all have to deal with.

UPDATE: Fred Kaplan at Slate

Glenn Greenwald

Jonathan Schwarz

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time

James Fallows

UPDATE #2: Robin Wright at The Atlantic

Christopher Hitchens in Slate

UPDATE #3: Elliott Abrams at The Atlantic

Greg Scoblete

Dave Schuler

UPDATE #4: Marc Lynch at The Atlantic

UPDATE #5: Heather Hurlburt and Daniel Drezner at Bloggingheads

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Filed under Israel/Palestine, Middle East

There Are Cordoba Guitars And Cordoba Houses, Part II

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

The Anti-Defamation League, which describes itself as “the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry,” released a statment this morning opposing the building of the 13-story mosque near Ground Zero.

“In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right,” says the ADL. Full statement here:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site.  We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process.  Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

Marc Tracy at Tablet:

The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic community center a couple blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. (Earlier this week, a community board recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission allow the project to go through.) The release goes out of its way to grant Cordoba House’s organizers good intentions and to condemn the bigotry of some who oppose it. So what is the problem? “The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location,” the ADL argues, “is counterproductive to the healing process.”

It adds:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.

Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Except when it does the precise opposite.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

I have explained my support for the Lower Manhattan mosque project before, but let me restate two points:

1) The organization behind the project, the Cordoba Initiative, is a moderate group interested in advancing cross-cultural understanding. It is very far from being a Wahhabist organization;

2) This is a strange war we’re fighting against Islamist terrorism. We must fight the terrorists with alacrity, but at the same time we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other. If we as a society punish Muslims of good faith, Muslims of good faith will join the other side. It’s not that hard to understand. I’m disappointed that the ADL doesn’t understand this.

Greg Sargent:

This is basically a concession that some of the opposition to the mosque is grounded in bigotry, and that those arguing that the mosque builders harbor ill intent are misguided. Yet ADL is opposing the construction of the mosque anyway, on the grounds that it will cause 9/11 victims unnecessary “pain.”

But look: The foes of this mosque whose opposition is rooted in bigotry are the ones who are trying to stoke victims’ pain here, for transparent political purposes. Their opposition to this mosque appears to be all about insidiously linking the mosque builders with the 9/11 attackers, and by extension, to revive passions surrounding 9/11. To oppose the mosque is to capitulate to — and validate — this program.

On this one, you’re either with the bigots or you’re against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them.

Paul Krugman:

So let’s try some comparable cases, OK? It causes some people pain to see Jews operating small businesses in non-Jewish neighborhoods; it causes some people pain to see Jews writing for national publications (as I learn from my mailbox most weeks); it causes some people pain to see Jews on the Supreme Court. So would ADL agree that we should ban Jews from these activities, so as to spare these people pain? No? What’s the difference?

One thing I thought Jews were supposed to understand is that they need to be advocates of universal rights, not just rights for their particular group — because it’s the right thing to do, but also because, ahem, there aren’t enough of us. We can’t afford to live in a tribal world.

But ADL has apparently forgotten all that. Shameful — and stupid.

Update: Times staff briefly removed the link to the ADL statement, because it seemed to be dead — but it was apparently just a case of an overloaded server, and I’ve put it back.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

Humorist Will Rogers once said about the repeal of Prohibition, “Repeal is all right, but the wrong people are for it.” In this case, the wrong people are against Park51, and if Abe Foxman and the ADL can’t keep their personal feelings out of the issue, they should have just kept quiet instead of handing the Bigot Brigade a public relations gift. What a disgrace.

Adam Serwer at American Prospect:

Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.

J Street:

Today, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

During the high-tide of anti-semitism, and then again during the civil-rights movement, and often since, the Anti-Defamation League transcended its Jewish origins to stand as a courageous American voice against prejudice. But now, it’s making a mockery of its original mission and, in the process, it has sullied American Judaism’s intense tradition of tolerance and inclusion.  I miss the old ADL and so does America. Foxman should be fired immediately. (Meanwhile, hooray yet again for Michael Bloomberg.)

Peter Beinart at Daily Beast:

Had the ADL genuinely tried to apply its universalistic mandate to the Jewish state, it would have become something like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) or B’Tselem (full disclosure: I’m on B’Tselem’s American board): Israeli human rights organizations that struggle against all forms of bigotry, and thus end up spending a lot of time defending Muslims and Christian Palestinians against discrimination by Jews. But the ADL hasn’t done that. Instead it has become, in essence, two organizations. In the United States, it still links the struggle against anti-Semitism to the struggle against bigotry against non-Jews. In Israel, by contrast, it largely pretends that government-sponsored bigotry against non-Jews does not exist. When Arizona passes a law that encourages police to harass Latinos, the ADL expresses outrage. But when Israel builds 170 kilometers of roads in the West Bank for the convenience of Jewish settlers, from which Palestinians are wholly or partially banned, the ADL takes out advertisements declaring, “The Problem Isn’t Settlements.”

For a long time now, the ADL seems to have assumed that it could exempt Israel from the principles in its charter and yet remain just as faithful to that charter inside the United States. But now the chickens are coming back home to America to roost. The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue? Would the ADL for one second suggest that sensitivity toward people victimized by members of a certain religion or race justifies discriminating against other, completely innocent, members of that religion or race? Of course not. But when it comes to Muslims, the standards are different. They are different in Israel, and now, it is clear, they are different in the United States, too.

More Goldberg

Mark Thompson at The League:

I don’t have any real problem with those who take offense at the decision to build this project a few blocks from Ground Zero, and particularly those who take such offense having had deep ties to New York on 9/11/01.

What I do have a problem with is those who have determined that this is an appropriate issue for political activism, and particularly those supposed advocates of “small government” who view it as appropriate that government would step in here to restrict the property rights of a private organization.  What I do have a problem with is those who claim to advocate for “states rights” and federalism insisting that it is the job of the federal government to make sure that what is effectively a zoning decision of the New York City government is overruled.  What I do have a problem with is those who are using this proposed building to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment by branding it a “9/11 Victory Mosque,” and who presume to know more about Muslims than Muslims themselves and in the process create an “inescable trap” wherein all Muslims are either lying about not being jihadi terrorists or are just “bad Muslims.”

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

The left continues to feign confusion (it is hard to believe its pundits are really this muddled) as to the reasons why conservatives (and a majority of fellow citizens) oppose the Ground Zero mosque. No, it’s not about “religious freedom” — we’re talking about the location of the mosque on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans. The J Street crowd and the liberal defenders of the mosque seem very bent out of shape when Americans want to defend the sensibilities of their fellow citizens and when they look askance at an imam whose funding appears to come from those whose goal is anything but religious reconciliation. Again, no one is telling Muslims not to build or pray in mosques; we on the right are simply asking them not to do it in the location where Islam was the inspiration for mass murder.

It is interesting that the word mosque is not employed by those excoriating the mosque opponents. As a smart reader highlights, why is it described as a “cultural center”? Pretty dicey to articulate exactly what position the left clings to — namely, that we must allow a mosque at Ground Zero. Well, when you are that precise, it does highlight the vast gulf between the left’s perspective and that of average Americans.  (And for the record, my objections to J Street obviously aren’t limited to the Ground Zero mosque. And I certainly do believe “you are either for us or you are for them” — when it comes to Israel and to America. That this notion disturbs the left tells you precisely why it is estranged from the vast majority of Israelis and Americans.)

Dan Senor is not confused in the least. He pens an open letter to the Ground Zero mosque imam, which gets to the heart of the matter. Recalling the 9/11 attack “committed in the name of Islam,” he explains:

We applaud and thank every Muslim throughout the world who has rejected and denounced this association. But the fact remains that in the minds of many who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim “military” victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world. …

Rather than furthering cross-cultural and interfaith understanding, a Cordoba House located near Ground Zero would undermine them. Rather that serving as a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples, it would function as a divide. Your expressed hopes for the center not only would never be realized, they would be undermined from the start. Insisting on this particular site on Park Place can only reinforce this counterproductive dynamic.

This is not some right-wing, extremist view. It represents the views of a large majority of Americans and of mainstream Jewish leaders like Malcolm Hoenlein — as well as Juan Williams. But the left – which has become obsessed with universalism and finds particularism and nationalism noxious – thinks it unseemly for Americans to look after the interests of Americans, and Jews to look after Jews (as to the latter, we can only be grateful that so many pro-Zionist Christians do as well).

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Joe Lieberman comes out against building an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan:

“I’ve also read some things about some of the people involved that make me wonder about their motivations. So I don’t know enough to reach a conclusion, but I know enough to say that this thing is only going to create more division in our society, and somebody ought to put the brakes on it,” he said. “Give these people a chance to come out and explain who they are, where their money’s coming from.”

Sounds like he’s deeply troubled by the hilariously elongated chain of guilt-by-association constructed by critics.

Meanwhile, former Bushie Dan Senor writes:

9/11 remains a deep wound for Americans—especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there.

A couple things are striking about this argument. First, Senor claims that “Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials.” But the Muslim center is not being built on Ground Zero. It’s being built two blocks away, in a site that doesn’t feel especially connected to Ground Zero. Senor is suggesting that nothing but memorials should be built within (at least) a two block radius of Ground Zero. Forgive me for feeling skeptical that such a standard is being applied to any other proposed construction.

Second, there’s a very weaselly relativism at work here in his not-prejudiced plea to relocate the center. Senor is arguing, I support freedom of religion, and I believe that your group doesn’t support terrorism, but other Americans don’t feel this way. Of course this is an argument for caving in to any popular prejudice or social phobia whatsoever. Hey, I’m happy to let a black family move into the neighborhood, but other people here think you’re probably crackheads who spray random gunfire at night, so in order to prevent racial strife you should probably live somewhere else.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has emerged as the unlikely but passionate defender of the planned Muslim community center near ground zero, today traveled to Governors Island off the tip of Lower Manhattan to deliver a stirring plea for sanity in what he called “[as] important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes.”

The Daily News’ Adam Lisberg reports that Bloomberg choked up at one point as he delivered the speech surrounded by religious leaders of different faiths, with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Rather than attack the bigotry of the opponents of the so-called “ground zero mosque,” Bloomberg made several positive arguments for building the center. He traced the struggle for religious freedom in New York and affirmed the rights of citizens to do as they please with their private property:

The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

It’s worth noting that three Jewish leaders  — Rabbi Bob Kaplan from the Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Irwin Kula from the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and Cara Berkowitz from the UJA Federation — were present with Bloomberg during the speech, despite the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the project

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Few events in recent memory have called up the resonant ideological debates of 9/11 as forcefully as the mosque being planned near the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It appears these are debates we will keep having, as New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has voted to let the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement proceed with their plans. Along with those plans will come more discussion of religious freedom, taste, and the specter of a Western/Muslim cultural World War

Ann Althouse:

Writes the NYT, reporting the city’s 9-0 vote against designating the building on the site a landmark. Now, as a matter of freedom of religion, it really was crucial not to let religion (or political ideology) affect the question whether that building should be classified under the law as a landmark, thus limiting the property rights of the owner. The requirement of neutrality in decisionmaking like that is fundamental to the rule of law.

One by one, members of the commission debated the aesthetic significance of the building, designed in the Italian Renaissance Palazzo style by an unknown architect.

That is clearly the way it had to be done. But what should not be lost, in understanding that, is that the owner’s freedom means that the owner has a choice. The owner is certainly not required to build a Muslim center and mosque on that site. Because it is a choice, it’s not wrong for the community to ask: Why are you making this choice? Why are you doing something that feels so painful to us? The community isn’t wrong to plead with the owner to choose to do something else with that property. It’s not enough of an answer to say we are doing it because we have a right to do it.

UPDATE: Will Wilkinson

Allah Pundit

Greg Sargent

William Kristol at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #2: Dorothy Rabinowitz at WSJ

Alan Jacobs at The American Scene

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene

Joshua Cohen and Jim Pinkerton at Bloggingheads

Mark Schmitt and Rich Lowry at Bloggingheads

David Weigel and Dan Foster at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #3: Alex Massie here and here

UPDATE #4: Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, his letter to Foxman

Abe Foxman writes a letter to Zakaria

Steve Clemons

UPDATE #5: Christopher Hitchens at Slate

Eugene Volokh

UPDATE #6: Jillian Rayfield at Talking Points Memo

UPDATE #7: Charles Krauthammer at WaPo

Jonathan Chait at TNR

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #8: Joe Klein on Krauthammer

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic on Krauthammer

UPDATE #9: More Krauthammer

Kinsley responds

UPDATE #10: Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place

Steve Benen

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Not Only Are The 1980s Over, Apparently The 2000s Ended Today As Well

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up

Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy:

In a speech to a disabled veterans’ group in Georgia today, U.S. President Barack Obama will draw attention to the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq. Under the current withdrawal plan, which the president says is on track,  the American force will shrink to 50,000 troops by the end of August, down from 144,000. These remaining “advise and assist” troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011.

“Make no mistake: Our commitment in Iraq is changing, from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats,” Obama says in his prepared remarks.

Politically, the speech is likely an effort to draw attention to a largely unheralded success as criticism of the increasingly bloody war in Afghanistan mounts, particularly within his own party. The White House has pointed out that the total number of U.S. troops on the ground in both wars has declined from 177,000 when he took office to about 146,000 by the end of this month.

The U.S. military on Sunday refuted the Iraqi government’s claim that July was the deadliest month in the country since 2008. According to U.S. data, 222 people were killed in Iraqi violence last month, less than half the number claimed by Iraqi authorities.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Well, at least he didn’t announce the end of major combat operations in Iraq under a banner that said “Mission Accomplished.” He did it in front of the Disabled American Veterans, the most grave and sober audience imaginable. And appropriately so, after a war that should never have been fought, a war that by some estimates will cost $3 trillion before it’s done (including the health care services rendered to those represented by the DAV), a war whose casualties number in the 100s of thousands. The war in Iraq hasn’t been much in the news over the past year, but this is an important moment, a moment for  reflection, for humility in the face of a national disaster.

There is no “victory” in Iraq, nor will there be. There is something resembling stability, but that might not last, either. There is a semblance of democracy, but that may dissolve over time, or in the next few months, into a Shi’ite dictatorship–which, if not well-run, will yield to the near-inevitable military coup. Yes, Saddam is gone–and that is a good thing. The Kurds have a greater measure of independence and don’t have to live in fear of mass murder, which is a good thing, too. But Iran has been aggrandized. Its Iraqi allies, especially Muqtada Sadr’s populist movement, remain a force that will play a major role–arguably one more central than ours–in shaping the future of the country. This attempt by western neo-colonialists–that is, the Bush Administration–to construct an amenable Iraq will most likely end no better than previous western attempts have. Certainly, even if something resembling democracy prevails, the U.S. invasion and occupation–the carnage and tragedy it wrought–will not be remembered fondly by Iraqis anytime soon. We will own the destruction in perpetuity; if the Iraqis manage to cobble themselves a decent society, they will see it, correctly, as an achievement of their own.

Lexington at The Economist:

What has America achieved by its intervention, if anything? Such is the continuing rancour about the decision to invade Iraq in the first place that it is almost impossible to debate this question dispassionately. The Economist was a strong supporter of the invasion (see here, for example), not because we thought Saddam Hussein had anything at all to do with 9/11 but because we were afraid that he was going to break out of the box that was built to contain him after the Gulf war of 1991, with hugely dangerous consequences for the region. But we were wrong about his WMD programmes. And we were terribly wrong about the human cost of the war. Had we foreseen that the country would collapse into such bloody mayhem after the invasion we would not have supported it.

All that said, where does Iraq stand now? Still a chaotic mess in most ways. The New York Times has an excellent, depressing story on how America and its allies have failed to provide something as simple and (especially in the scorching heat of Mesopotamia) vital as a decent supply of electricity for Baghdad since they took over the country the better part of a decade ago.

In politics, however, the picture is more mixed. Iraq has not yet replaced Saddam with another dictator, as many feared. And for the time being the country’s politics is not riven violently along sectarian lines. A largely peaceful election took place last spring with a high turnout but failed to produce a clear majority, and since then drift and stalemate have been the order of the day. The election showed that, contrary to what many experts say from afar, Arabs have no difficulty in understanding what democracy is all about and would like it for themselves. The subsequent stalemate shows why they do not get it: incumbent rulers cling leech-like to power no matter what wishes the people express at the ballot box.

The interesting question about this particular moment is: can America use its remaining military, political and economic heft in Iraq to jolt its politicians into heeding the wishes of Iraq’s voters? Should it even try? The prize is potentially huge: a peaceful election that actually succeeded in changing a government peacefully would be a signal achievement not just for Iraq but for the Arab world as a whole. The problem is that as America draws down its forces its ability to influence events diminishes, too. Besides, Iraq is supposedly sovereign now. So by what right can America meddle in its internal politics?

Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy:

The political impasse is worrying Iraqis. “Everything is stopped,” one told the Washington Post. “There’s no work, no jobs. People are waiting. People are just buying food and saving money because they are afraid the situation will get worse in the future — worse than in 2006 and 2007.” People also are bummed by the lack of electricity, especially in the brutal height of Iraq’s punishing summer. And someone keeps blowing up the houses of police officers in the Fallujah area.

President Obama is gonna talk today in a speech to vets in Atlanta about how all this is no longer gonna be our problem.

I wonder if we had done a census in Iraq in say 2005 if that would have settled some of the political issues that have led to Iraq’s impasse.

Greg Sargent:

* Anybody remember that promise to end the Iraq War? In a measure of how much things have changed since Obama took office, the president plans to deliver a big speech today underscoring that he’s making good on his pledge to pull out of Iraq — and it’s anybody’s guess whether it will have any meaningful political impact.

The White House is hoping that Obama’s delivery on such a major promise will, you know, matter a bit to people. Public anxiety over Iraq was powerful enough to help decide a presidential election less than two years ago. But now, amazingly, it’s unclear how powerful a motivator this will be even for Democratic base voters.

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Filed under Iraq, Political Figures

Journolist Strikes Again!

Jonathan Strong at Daily Caller:

Katha Pollitt – Hayes’s colleague at the Nation – didn’t disagree on principle, though she did sound weary of the propaganda. “I hear you. but I am really tired of defending the indefensible. The people who attacked Clinton on Monica were prissy and ridiculous, but let me tell you it was no fun, as a feminist and a woman, waving aside as politically irrelevant and part of the vast rightwing conspiracy Paula, Monica, Kathleen, Juanita,” Pollitt said.

“Part of me doesn’t like this shit either,” agreed Spencer Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent. “But what I like less is being governed by racists and warmongers and criminals.”

Ackerman went on:

I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

Ackerman did allow there were some Republicans who weren’t racists. “We’ll know who doesn’t deserve this treatment — Ross Douthat, for instance — but the others need to get it.” He also said he had begun to implement his plan. “I previewed it a bit on my blog last week after Commentary wildly distorted a comment Joe Cirincione made to make him appear like (what else) an antisemite. So I said: why is it that so many on the right have such a problem with the first viable prospective African-American president?”

Several members of the list disagreed with Ackerman – but only on strategic grounds.

“Spencer, you’re wrong,” wrote Mark Schmitt, now an editor at the American Prospect. “Calling Fred Barnes a racist doesn’t further the argument, and not just because Juan Williams is his new black friend, but because that makes it all about character. The goal is to get to the point where you can contrast some _thing_ — Obama’s substantive agenda — with this crap.”

(In an interview Monday, Schmitt declined to say whether he thought Ackerman’s plan was wrong. “That is not a question I’m going to answer,” he said.)

Kevin Drum, then of Washington Monthly, also disagreed with Ackerman’s strategy. “I think it’s worth keeping in mind that Obama is trying (or says he’s trying) to run a campaign that avoids precisely the kind of thing Spencer is talking about, and turning this into a gutter brawl would probably hurt the Obama brand pretty strongly. After all, why vote for him if it turns out he’s not going change the way politics works?”

But it was Ackerman who had the last word. “Kevin, I’m not saying OBAMA should do this. I’m saying WE should do this.”

More Strong

Instapundit:

Those who suspected that the media was collaborating to spin the coverage in Obama’s favor were righter than they knew. . . .

Andrew Breitbart at Big Journalism:

American journalism died a long time ago; today Tucker Carlson got around to running the obituary. What The Daily Caller has unearthed proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that most media organizations are either complicit by participation in the treachery that is Journolist, or are guilty of sitting back and watching Alinsky warfare being waged against all that challenged the progressive orthodoxy. The scandal predictably involves journalists posing as professors posing as experts. But dressed down they are nothing but street thugs. They deserve the deepest levels of public consternation. We must demand that they do.

The only way that the media will recover from the horrifying discoveries found in the Journolist is to investigate and investigate until every guilty reporter, professor and institution is laid bare begging America for forgiveness. Will they do it?

If the powers that be don’t comply with this demand, we can always call Jonathan Alter and Eric Alterman racists.*

The media is filled with left-wing activists.

The race card is the first and last refuge of liberal scoundrels.

The race-card playing liberals in the media tried their best to whitewash Barack Obama’s radical ties to Jeremiah Wright and other race demagogues.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, but it’s always useful to see all the plotting and evidence in writing.

Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media:

And don’t forget to have CNN declare their network a “Wright-Free Zone” — a week after praising to the hilt Wright’s performance at the annual convention of the NAACP.

Matt Welch at Reason:

Ackerman’s characteristically juvenile bravado did draw JournoList rebukes from Mark Schmitt and Kevin Drum, the Daily Caller reported. Read the whole thing here; Reason on JournoList here.

As this whole episode describes a world utterly alien to me–listservs, major-party affiliation, political team identity, desire to help out politicians–I am experiencing this mostly as a consumer of entertainment news (with the caveat that I have met several of the people involved). There is a certain poetry, however, to seeing Joe Conason’s name associated with it all.

Ben Domenech at The New Ledger:

Fred Barnes is a devout Christian and a gentleman, a respected writer who has never given any indication of racist views. The fact that Ackerman would recommend this wrathful and baseless attack isn’t surprising. But it does say something about membership in the menagerie of tame conservatives that where Barnes is maligned by the Left, Douthat is exempted.

Mona Charen at NRO

Jules Crittenden:

The best defense is to be offensive. It’s what wriggles when you lift the JournoList rock. Chatter at Memeorandum. Spencer “Call them Racists” Ackerman’s FDL site here. At Wired here. At last check, crickets in response. Maybe because a good character assassination plot, as the DailyCaller’s reporting illustrates, takes planning. It’ll be interesting to see if Wired wants to keep a scribbler who tried to influence a national election by engineering unwarranted venal ad-hominem attacks.

HotAir: The objections weren’t whether it was right or not. They were about whether it would work.

National Review: The well-worn accusation of racism has been losing its punch. But rarely do we see the motivation so baldly stated.

Hey, if they keep it up, maybe we will end up post-racial. And post-racialist, starting with Ackerman. It would be kind of ironic if the only character that ended up getting assassinated out of all that plotting is his own.

Salon scribbler doesn’t see what the big deal is with liberals plotting to randomly smear Republicans as racist in order to divert attention from a presidential candidate’s distracting racist problem. After all, belief in Republican racism is a liberal given. Which makes it OK.

Moderate Voice: Just because the right-wing is paranoid doesn’t mean the lefty media wasn’t out to get them. (To TMV’s credit, that’s not exactly how they put it.)

Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:

I think we’re finally getting to a point where the overuse of the “racism” charge since Barack Obama became president has weakened its sting. This story should weaken it further, as it reveals how comfortable some of our most passionate racism watchdogs are with sowing racial discord for partisan advantage.

I think this is healthy—for those falsely accused, for the political process, for race relations, and for those who suffer real racism of the sort that’s not immediately politically useful to a listserv of mostly white journalists in Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: Strong here and here

Ann Althouse

Matt Welch at Reason

Ezra Klein

Jeffrey Goldberg

Byron York at The Washington Examiner

Nate Silver

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene

UPDATE #2: More Strong

Matthew Yglesias

Jim Lindgren

Ed Morrissey

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time

Andrew Sullivan

Jonathan Chait at TNR

UPDATE #3: More Strong

Ed Morrissey

DRJ at Patterico

Jonathan Zasloff

UPDATE #4: Bill Scher and Conor Friedersdorf at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #5: Roger Simon at Politico

Alex Pareene at Salon

Dan Riehl

Greg Sargent

UPDATE #6: Reihan Salam at Daily Beast

Heather Horn at The Atlantic

UPDATE #7: Instapundit

UPDATE #8: Michelle Goldberg and Dayo Olopade at Bloggingheads

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