Tag Archives: Peter Wehner

Dump All Your Stock In Chalkboards Now!

Bill Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

Furthermore, in the last quarter century, there have been transitions from allied dictatorships to allied democracies in Chile, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, to name only a few. The United States has played a role in helping those transitions turn out (reasonably) well. America needn’t be passive or fretful or defensive. We can help foster one outcome over another. As Krauthammer puts it, “Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.”

Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it’s a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.

But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it’s a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.

Rich Lowry at National Review:

Bill Kristol has an editorial on conservatives and Egypt. He takes a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck’s latest wild theorizing

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic

Robert Stacy McCain:

Generally speaking, I’m a bigger fan of Kristol than of Krauthammer, mainly because Krauthammer is such an anti-Palin snob. In this case, however, I share Krauthammer’s forebodings of an Egyptian revolution and dislike Kristol’s effort to enhance his own Strange New Respect quotient by dissing Beck.

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

Glenn Beck went off on a rather extraordinary monologue last week about a caliphate taking over much of the world. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standardtook exception to what Beck said. And yesterday Beck fired back.

Set aside (if you can) Beck’s childish and churlish attacks on Kristol and focus on the substance of the disagreement.

Beck lectures Kristol on the dangers of “getting into bed with dictators.” It’s “really something the left does and not something the right should do.” But of course Bill’s position on Egypt is that America ought to get out of bed with dictators. That’s the main point of Kristol’s editorial, after all. And whether you agree with Kristol or not, he has been a strong advocate for the so-called Freedom Agenda, which argues that in the past the United States, in opting for “stability” over liberty in the Middle East, has gotten neither.

More important, though, people should simply listen to the original Beck meditation on the coming worldwide caliphate. It is Beck Unplugged, complete with chalkboards and maps; with happy faces and sad ones; with friends, enemies, and “frenemies”; with references to the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn; and of course dire, apocalyptic warnings. The result of the “coming insurrection” will be that the “whole world starts to implode.”

“Play it out with me,” Beck pleads. “The entire Mediterranean is on fire,” he cries out us — but not just the Mediterranean. This all-consuming blaze is spreading to the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Italy, Greece, and Germany; to Russia, Africa, Morocco, and almost every place in between. Beck demonstrates “how this whole thing cascades over to us.” And beware: none of this is happenstance. “This is coordinated,” America’s intrepid truth teller informs us. Pro-democracy talk is part of a “progressive movement.” The masses in Egypt’s Liberty Square are “useful idiots.” And oh-by-the-way, he promises to tell us what the real reason behind the 2003 Iraq war was:

Two wars in Iraq. We said no bombing there. Ancient Babylon. Ancient Babylon. Why? Because the Bible tells us that that is the seat — right here — of power of a global, evil empire. Well, that’s also where the 12th imam from Iran is supposedly going to show up. Everybody on this side wants ancient Babylon for their caliphate.

Leave it to Glenn Beck to sees dots on a map and connect lines invisible to mere mortals, lines that are the result of a massive and astonishingly well-organized conspiracy. It is something out of the twilight zone.

I’ve been warning about Glenn Beck for a couple of years now, concerned about his erratic behavior and conspiracy theories. “My hunch is that he is a comet blazing across the media sky right now — and will soon flame out,” I wrote in 2009. “Whether he does or not, he isn’t the face or disposition that should represent modern-day conservatism … he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.”

Jeffrey Goldberg:

What about this don’t you understand, Mr. Wehner? Is it not shockingly clear to you? Glenn Beck has performed a great service for us, by highlighting the weakness of the Iberian Peninsula (the foremost challenge facing American policymakers at this moment, obviously)  and the role ancient Babylon will play in the coming campaign for the worldwide imposition of Muslim law. Combine this trenchant analysis of Muslim politics with his recent attempt to highlight the pernicious work of the nine most evil people in world history, eight of whom, entirely coincidentally, are Jewish, and you should begin to get the picture.

Of course, the conspiracy goes deeper than Beck has yet revealed; I’m hoping that, in coming days, if the Freemasons, working in concert with Hezbollah and the Washington Redskins, don’t succeed in suppressing the truth, that Beck will reveal the identities of the most pernicious players in this grotesque campaign to subvert our way of life. I can’t reveal too much here, but I think it’s fair to say that Beck will be paying a lot of attention in the coming weeks to the dastardly, pro-caliphate work of Joy Behar; tthe makers of Little Debbie snack cakes; the 1980s hair band Def Leppard; Omar Sharif; and the Automobile Association of America. And remember, you read it here first.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

And I’ve heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand. The speculation is that Beck is on thin ice. His ratings are dropping, too–which, in the end, is a good part of what this is all about. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

As Beck becomes increasingly unhinged and lost in conspiracy-land, he may well become a litmus test for the right — and a measure of whether the leaders of Fox News care about any claim to respectability. Should Fox throw him out of the coop, Beck will still have a cult-like following that he can service via his syndicated radio show, website, and books — and still make tens of millions of dollars a year. He won’t crawl off to an undisclosed location. But he will no longer have the imprimatur of the right’s main media outfit. And what better confirmation that the conspiracy is vast, oh so vast.

Jeff Poor at The Daily Caller:

On “Morning Joe” Tuesday, the Weekly Standard editor appeared to promote “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” a collection of essays written by his father, Irving Kristol. During that appearance, New York magazine’s John Heilemann asked Kristol why Republicans were reluctant to challenge Fox News host Glenn Beck, a regular target of MSNBC’s personalities, as Kristol did in a column for the Feb. 14 issue of the Weekly Standard for his claim Islamists and liberal forces were collaborating to orchestrate a caliphate.

Kristol explained MSNBC wasn’t the place for such a “debate” and cited a 2010 Weekly Standard article that praised Beck in some regards for his role in the Tea Party movement, explaining the commentary on Beck goes both ways.

“Well, I’m not going to get into a debate with Glenn Beck here on MSNBC,” Kristol said. “I’ll debate him on Fox where we’re fair and balanced where we have these debates among ourselves. No, I don’t think that’s fair at all. Matt Continetti had a long piece a year ago on — partly on Glenn Beck, on the tea parties, what was healthy and not so admirable in certain strains of thoughts among people like Glenn Beck. So I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘Oh, you guys should be calling him out and monitoring everyone on your side.’ That’s not — we publish what we believe in the Weekly Standard. I’m happy to defend to defend the Weekly Standard and what I say on Fox News Sunday.”

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Filed under Conservative Movement, Mainstream, Middle East

AIDS In Africa, George W. Bush And Lady Gaga… But Not So Much Lady Gaga

George W. Bush in WaPo:

Early in my first term, it became clear that much of sub-Saharan Africa was on the verge of catastrophe. In some nations perhaps a quarter of the population was infected with HIV. The disease was prevalent among teachers, nurses, factory workers, farmers, civil servants – the very people who make a society run. Drugs to treat the disease existed and were falling in price, but they could hardly be found in Africa. Whole countries were living in the shadow of death, making it difficult for them to plan or prepare for the future.

Our response began with an effort to reduce mother-to-child transmission of the virus – the saddest, most preventable aspect of the crisis. In 2002, America helped found the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to encourage the concerted action of wealthy nations. In 2003, I announced the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), an ambitious bilateral program to confront the worst of the pandemic with speed and urgency. Members of Congress from both parties, leaders of African nations and outside advocates such as Bono became partners with my administration in a tremendous undertaking.

In all of these efforts, my concern was results. I was frankly skeptical of some past foreign assistance programs. In this crisis, we needed not only more resources but also to use them differently. So we put in place a unified command structure; set clear, ambitious, measurable goals; insisted on accountability; and made sure that host governments took leadership and responsibility. The results came more quickly than many of us expected. Early in 2003, there were perhaps 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa on AIDS treatment. Today, thanks to America, other donor nations and the tireless work of Africans themselves, nearly 4 million are. Fragile nations have been stabilized, making progress possible in other areas of development.

But the most vivid results, for me, had a more human scale. On World AIDS Day in 2005, two young children from South Africa, Emily and Lewis, came for a White House visit. They chased around the Oval Office before Emily did what many others no doubt wanted to do – she fell asleep in her mother’s lap during my speech. Both young children were HIV-positive but had begun treatment. I could not even imagine all that curiosity and energy still and silent.

I firmly believe it has served American interests to help prevent the collapse of portions of the African continent. But this effort has done something more: It has demonstrated American character and beliefs. America is a certain kind of country, dedicated to the inherent and equal dignity of human lives. It is this ideal – rooted in faith and our founding – that gives purpose to our power. When we have a chance to do the right thing, we take it.

On this World AIDS Day, considerable progress has been made. The United Nations recently reported that the world has begun to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, considerable need remains. Every human life is precious, and far too many people around the world continue to suffer from the disease.

We still hope for an AIDS vaccine. In the meantime, there are millions on treatment who cannot be abandoned. And the progress in many African nations depends on the realistic hope of new patients gaining access to treatment. Why get tested if AIDS drugs are restricted to current patients? On AIDS, to stand still is to lose ground.

John Derbyshire at The Corner:

I wish George W. Bush would shut up and go away. He keeps reminding me what a fool I was ever to think that the man has a conservative bone in his body.

His Washington Post op-ed this morning illustrates the point. Titled “America’s global fight against AIDS,” it is filled with the kind of emoting, gaseous, feelgood cant about “hope” and “progress” that, if you want it, is in all-too-plentiful supply over at the liberal booth.

I firmly believe it has served American interests to help prevent the collapse of portions of the African continent.

Has it? How? Is any American more prosperous, secure, healthy, or happy because of our government’s efforts at AIDS relief in Africa? How would you demonstrate this? Is it not at least as possible that we have just stored up trouble for the future, as a person more familiar with Africa has written?

But this effort has done something more: It has demonstrated American character and beliefs. America is a certain kind of country, dedicated to the inherent and equal dignity of human lives. It is this ideal — rooted in faith and our founding — that gives purpose to our power. When we have a chance to do the right thing, we take it.

Wilsonian flim-flam. Americans, taken in the generality, are indeed distinctive in their character and beliefs. That distinctiveness has often expressed itself in efforts to improve the lives of people in far-away countries, as in the missionary endeavors to pre-communist China and elsewhere.

It is the most elementary error, though — and certainly one no conservative should make — to confuse private charity with state action. When governments are generous, they are generous with our money, after ripping it from our pockets by force of law.

If George W. Bush, or any other wealthy American, is moved by the plight of AIDS sufferers in Africa, he is free to discharge his feelings by acts of charity. If he were to do so, no-one — no, not even I — would begrudge him the smug self-satisfaction he displays in this op-ed.

There is, however, no virtue in a government official spending your money and mine unless for some reason demonstrably connected to our national interest. AIDS relief in Africa is not so connected, not in any way visible to me.

Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner:

We supported PEPFAR and I am glad we did. America gives foreign aid and George Bush made it better here. If you read his chapter in Decision Points about AIDS and Africa, he does a lot of praising and highlighting of the work of successful private programs PEPFAR has invested in.

And contrary to what you said in your post, Derb, the Bush administration looked to support programs that encourage behavior change — and Bush got blasted for that from the public-health crowd back in the day. Heaven forbid we support programs that work if they might involved the scarlet-a word (the ABC model)! Those are programs that have been grand successes there — as Harvard’s Ted Green demonstrates again and again in his research. And those are the programs that deserve and need support.

And having spent time with the former president recently, I can assure you he does not plan to shut up and go away anytime soon. He’s using his presidential center as an institute to promote human rights –  women’s rights and cyber dissidents in the Middle East and elsewhere, teacher (and principal) support and training here. Private support with a very public voice. It’s a call and duty and an opportunity to him.

Derbyshire responds:

Thanks for that, Kathryn. Thanks too to the 73 (so far) commenters on my original PEPFAR post. I don’t think that’s a record comment thread, but I think I can hear Jonah gnashing his teeth anyway.First I’ll correct an apparent error in Kathryn’s post. She writes: “contrary to what you said in your post, Derb, the Bush administration looked to support programs that encourage behavior change.”

I can’t see anything I wrote that is thus contrary. I wrote: “The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive.”

According to Lyman and Wittels in that Foreign Affairs article I cited (which, a helpful reader tells me, non-subscribers can find in its entirety here, and which I urge all interested parties to read):

In fiscal year 2009, about 45 percent of PEPFAR’s budget was spent on treatment.

At 45 percent, “treatment” — wellnigh congruent with what I described as “the subsidizing of expensive medications” — is just what I said it is: the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort.

Lyman and Wittels go on to note that:

That percentage will only rise in the years ahead as more people are treated and as those who have already begun treatment develop a resistance to first-line drugs and start needing more expensive second-line therapies. Thus, unless overall aid to Africa grows substantially — which is unlikely in these times of deficits and budget stress — PEPFAR, and especially PEPFAR’s treatment programs, will increasingly crowd out other health efforts.

In other words: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

To deal with the comments: The substantive points (no, sorry, I don’t consider “Derbyshire is a jerk” or “Brits suck” to be substantive points) are those arguing that AIDS relief to sub-Saharan Africa is so a U.S. national interest. The main arguments are:

Public healthWith international travel cheap and easy, a high incidence of any infectious disease anywhere is everyone’s concern.

True; but this is properly the province of international agencies like WHO (the people who eradicated smallpox). PEPFAR is a needless duplication of effort. In any case, our first line of defense as a nation should be to deny visas to persons from affected areas, a thing Congress can do in half an hour, which costs our taxpayers nothing. (Likely, in fact, if you throw in externalities, less than nothing.)

Friends give you stuffBy showing our goodness and generosity to these afflicted nations, we cause them to love us and become our BFFs. We shall then have preferential access to their markets and commodities.

As Lyman and Wittels amply demonstrate, PEPFAR generates just what all other welfare programs generate: entitlement, resentment, and the Hegelian inversion of the giver-receiver relationship. Market- and commodity-wise, the current Race for Africa is easily being won by the Chinese, who don’t give a red [sic] cent for AIDS prevention.

Stopping the ChaosAll those AIDS orphans will grow up to be terrorists.

The argument goes that by saving lives through AIDS prevention/treatment we are helping prevent sub-Saharan African countries from turning into so many Somalias and Yemens.

This AIDS-terrorism connection seems to me a mighty stretch. How many of the several thousand terrorists on our current watchlists are AIDS orphans? (My guess: none.) Actual AIDS infection rates for Somalia and Yemen are 0.5 percent and 0.1 percent respectively, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The poverty/chaos/terrorism connection doesn’t seem to hold water anyway. The only terrorist from sub-Saharan Africa I can bring to mind is this one — a child of wealth and privilege (like Osama bin Laden).

This argument is hard to sustain even from a Bushite standpoint that the best hope for damping down terrorism is to spread democracy. PEPFAR is a hindrance to democracy-promotion, as Lyman and Wittels explain.

Peter Wehner in Commentary:

Here are a few facts that undermine Derbyshire’s case: (a) Africans have fewer sex partners on average over a lifetime than do Americans; (b) 22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years (for South African and Namibian youth, the figure is 50 percent in five years); and (c) America’s efforts are helping to create a remarkable shifts in how, in Africa, boys view girls — reflected in a decline of more than 50 percent in sexual partners among boys.

So Derbyshire’s argument that our AIDS efforts are “more likely to be negative than positive” because they will continue to subsidize and encourage “unhealthy, disease-spreading habits” is not only wrong but the opposite of reality.

There is more. Derbyshire’s view might best be expressed as “the Africans had an AIDS death sentence coming to them.” But in Africa, gender violence and abuse is involved in the first sexual encounter up to 85 percent of time. And where President Bush’s PEPFAR initiative has been particularly effective is in slowing the transmission of the disease from mothers to children. Perhaps Derbyshire can explain to us how exactly infants are complicit in their AIDS affliction. Or maybe he doesn’t much care if they are.

Let’s now turn to Derbyshire’s characterization that America is becoming the “welfare provider of last resort to all the world’s several billion people”: he is more than a decade behind in his understanding of overseas-development policy.

President Bush’s policies were animated by the belief that the way to save lives was to rely on the principle of accountability. That is what was transformational about Bush’s development effort. He rejected handing out money with no strings attached in favor of tying expenditures to reform and results. And it has had huge radiating effects. When PEPFAR was started, America was criticized by others for setting goals. Now the mantra around the world is “results-based development.” Yet Derbyshire seems to know nothing about any of this. That isn’t necessarily a problem — unless, of course, he decides to write on the topic.

Beyond that, though, the notion that AIDS relief in Africa is AFDC on a global scale is silly. We are not talking about providing food stamps to able-bodied adults or subsidizing illegitimacy; we’re talking about saving the lives of millions of innocent people and taking steps to keep human societies from collapsing. Private charity clearly wasn’t enough.

On the matter of Derbyshire’s claim that AIDS relief in Africa is unconnected to our national interest: al-Qaeda is actively trying to establish a greater presence in nations like Tanzania, Kenya, and Nigeria, which have become major ideological battlegrounds. And mass disease and death, poverty and hopelessness, make the rise of radicalism more, not less, likely. (Because of AIDS, in some countries nearly a half-century of public-health gains have been wiped away.)

Many things allow militant Islam to take root and grow; eliminating AIDS would certainly not eliminate jihadism. Still, a pandemic, in addition to being a human tragedy, makes governments unstable and regions ungovernable. And as one report put it, “Unstable and ungoverned regions of the world … pose dangers for neighbors and can become the setting for broader problems of terrorism … The impoverished regions of the world can be unstable, volatile, and dangerous and can represent great threats to America, Europe, and the world. We must work with the people of these regions to promote sustainable economic growth, better health, good governance and greater human security. …”

One might think that this observation very nearly qualifies as banal — but for Derbyshire, it qualifies as a revelation.

For the sake of the argument, though, let’s assume that the American government acts not out of a narrow interpretation of the national interest but instead out of benevolence — like, say, America’s response to the 2004 tsunami that hit Indonesia and other nations in the Indian Ocean. Why is that something we should oppose, or find alarming, or deem un-conservative? The impulse to act is, in fact, not only deeply humane but also deeply American.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Ouch. You very seldom see someone vanquish an argument as conclusively as Pete Wehner destroys John Derbyshire’s absurd beliefs about AIDS in Africa.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Nice. It’s fair to say I’m not a huge fan of Wehner’s work in general. But in the narrow field of defending George W. Bush against unfair attacks, he’s quite effective. And Bush did have a couple decent policy initiatives — his Africa aid policy, and his general policy of attempting to split most Muslims against radical Islam rather than demonize the entire religion.

And focusing on the first few words of Derbyshire’s piece, Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner:

I confess to confusion at the reader comments here about how NR is a GOP flack. I, as one person among many at NR, believe George Bush deserves some credit and a little more respect than a shut-up-and-go-away post. But NR disagreed with the Bush administration on a whole host of issues. (I did, too.)

Republican administrations and officers could tell you all about their frustration with NR on a whole host of issues. Veterans of the Bush White House will not-so-fondly remember NR on faith-based initiatives, on No Child Left Behind, on the Department of Homeland Security, on Harriet Miers, on immigration . . . I could go on. He wasn’t the perfect conservative, but I think we knew that walking in. And I might add that even the perfect conservative wasn’t always perfect: Go back and read old issues of NR from the Reagan administration; we praised him when we believed he was doing what was best; when we believed he was not, we not only criticized and persuaded but, in some cases, led the opposition.

Mike Potemra at The Corner:

Count me an admirer of George W. Bush. So I was a little taken aback by the fact that the number of people who clicked “Like” on Kathryn’s defense of him was just as low – two — as the number of those who “Liked” my endorsement of Lady Gaga. But I am quite heartened to report that, of the conservatives who e-mailed me about my Gaga post – and by the way, many thanks for taking the time to do so! — the ones who supported my view significantly outnumbered the naysayers. This surprised me; I learned back when I was working in the Senate that people generally are more likely to take the time and effort to write when they are angry about something than when they like what you are doing, so if you actually get a preponderance of positive mail, that’s a really great sign. In any case, there are a lot of conservatives out there who agreed with me.

Perhaps something similar obtains in the case of conservatives and W.? Sure, there are things he did that were wrong from the general perspective of conservative orthodoxy, and many more from the perspective of the countless mini-orthodoxies of various sub-types of conservatism. But on the whole, I’d guess that a Silent Majority of conservatives (even if they, too, might object to some particular Bush policy) think he’s a decent fellow and are grateful that he was there for those eight years.

Jim Antle at The American Spectator:

Perhaps not surprisingly, I come down on John Derbyshire’s side of this debate: “I wish George W. Bush would shut up and go away.” Let’s stipulate that a number of his individual policies — including those expiring tax cuts! — were sound, that he was a decent guy, and that even in his faults he was not the uniquely malevolent figure that many liberals (and some paleoconservatives) make him out to be. On several big questions, his administration differed from Barack Obama’s in degree but not kind.

Although Bush did favor legislation that would have reigned in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he also supported Community Reinvestment Act-style extensions of credit to the uncreditworthy to the same degree as Obama and Bill Clinton. He and his Federal Reserve appointees favored, or at least did nothing to stop, the loose monetary policies that helped inflate the financial bubble. He not only refused to cut domestic spending to pay for his post-9/11 anti-terrorism campaign but actually continued to increase it, paying for two wars on credit. When the financial collapse inevitably came, he responded by supporting the bailouts.

When it came to increasing federal spending, enlarging the national debt, growing the government, enhancing Washington’s role in health care, and encouraging state-managed crony capitalism, Bush may not be in the same league as Obama. But he definitely started the country on the path Obama has accelerated, reversing the fiscal discipline a Republican Congress once imposed on Clinton. And to the extent that his policies encouraged the housing and financial bubble, Bush helped pave the way for Obama and the Democrats to come in and push the country to the left in those areas where Bush was relatively conservative.

To absolve George W. Bush of these things is to make the case against Obama incoherent apart from mere partisanship. And it is to let Bush-brand Republicans off the hook for the political defeats that made an Obama administration, with special guest stars Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, possible in the first place.

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Filed under Africa, Political Figures, Public Health

Open The Closet And Walk To The Outside

Marc Ambinder:

Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has told family and associates that he is gay.
Mehlman arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently, he said in an interview. He agreed to answer a reporter’s questions, he said, because, now in private life, he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage and anticipated that questions would arise about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.
“It’s taken me 43 years to get comfortable with this part of my life,” said Mehlman, now an executive vice-president with the New York City-based private equity firm, KKR. “Everybody has their own path to travel, their own journey, and for me, over the past few months, I’ve told my family, friends, former colleagues, and current colleagues, and they’ve been wonderful and supportive. The process has been something that’s made me a happier and better person. It’s something I wish I had done years ago.”
Privately, in off-the-record conversations with this reporter over the years, Mehlman voiced support for civil unions and told of how, in private discussions with senior Republican officials, he beat back efforts to attack same-sex marriage. He insisted, too, that President Bush “was no homophobe.” He often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called “the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.”
Mehlman’s leadership positions in the GOP came at a time when the party was stepping up its anti-gay activities — such as the distribution in West Virginia in 2006 of literature linking homosexuality to atheism, or the less-than-subtle, coded language in the party’s platform (“Attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country…”). Mehlman said at the time that he could not, as an individual Republican, go against the party consensus. He was aware that Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief strategic adviser, had been working with Republicans to make sure that anti-gay initiatives and referenda would appear on November ballots in 2004 and 2006 to help Republicans.
Mehlman acknowledges that if he had publicly declared his sexuality sooner, he might have played a role in keeping the party from pushing an anti-gay agenda.
“It’s a legitimate question and one I understand,” Mehlman said. “I can’t change the fact that I wasn’t in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that. It was very hard, personally.” He asks of those who doubt his sincerity: “If they can’t offer support, at least offer understanding.”
“What I do regret, and think a lot about, is that one of the things I talked a lot about in politics was how I tried to expand the party into neighborhoods where the message wasn’t always heard. I didn’t do this in the gay community at all.”
He said that he “really wished” he had come to terms with his sexual orientation earlier, “so I could have worked against [the Federal Marriage Amendment]” and “reached out to the gay community in the way I reached out to African Americans.”
Mehlman is aware that his attempts to justify his past silence will not be adequate for many people. He and his friends say that he is aware that he will no longer control the story about his identity — which will simultaneously expose old wounds, invite Schadenfruede, and legitimize anger among gay rights activists in both parties who did not hide their sexual orientations.

Michael Triplett at Mediaite:

Ambinder was apparently pushed to run the story two days early after Mike Rogers, whose track record on outing conservative politicians is very good, reported on Blogactive that Ambinder was preparing a story that would confirm that Mehlman was gay and the story was slated for Friday or early next week.

Within an hour of Rogers going public with his scoop that Mehlman was about to come out as gay, Ambinder posted his story.

It’s a rumor that has circulated around Washington, D.C., for years.  Mehlman–who was recently in the news for buying a condo in New York City’s very-gay Chelsea neighborhood–has previously denied he’s gay but now he tells Ambinder that he “arrived at this conclusion about his identity fairly recently” and “anticipated that questions would be asked about his participation in a late-September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage, Proposition 8.”

[…]

In 2006, Mehlman’s sexual orientation led to an uncomfortable moment for CNN after they edited a transcript and a video that featured Bill Maher outing Mehlman on Larry King Live. That story was later told in the documentary Outrage, which featured Rogers and his work to “out” closeted  gay conservatives who work against the LGBT community.

Ambinder seems like a natural to break the Mehlman story.  In 2006, he wrote about the challenges that Mark Foley scandal created for gay Republicans, including the lavender mafia that surrounded Foley and reached into the Republican establishment. A well-connected openly gay reporter, Ambinder would have the connections inside the web of gay Republicans to convince Mehlman to give him an exclusive.

According to the story, Mehlman and Ambinder have been talking for a number of years about Mehlman coming out and his views on gay issues.

Honestly, I thought the guy came out years ago. Remember when Bill Maher talked about the rumors surrounding him on Larry King’s show — back in 2006? I guess you were the last to know, Ken.

He’s doing this now, it seems, because he wants to drum up publicity for the cause of gay marriage and figures that “Republican whom everyone thought was gay actually is gay” headlines will do the trick. Could be, although Ambinder’s careful to remind readers of the sort of social con initiatives that the GOP pushed during Mehlman’s RNC tenure. That won’t endear him to gay activists, and his newly public identity won’t endear him to social cons. Maybe he should have just worked for gay marriage like Ted Olson and kept his orientation private?

Joe My God:

Andy Towle is reporting that Mehlman has already agreed to chair a “major anti-Prop 8 fundraiser” for Americans For Equal Rights, Ted Olson and David Boies’ outfit. Gee thanks, shitbag. That’s like offering to help rebuild a house when YOU were the fucker that helped BURN IT DOWN.

Towleroad:

Just got off the phone with Chad Griffin, Board President of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization challenging Proposition 8 in federal court, regarding former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman and reports that he is about to come out of the closet.

Griffin tells me that Ken Mehlman is chairing a major fundraiser in late September that has already raised over $1 million for the organization battling Prop 8. The fundraiser is co-chaired by prominent Republican donors Paul Singer and Peter Thiel and will be held at Singer’s home.

A large number of other Republicans are co-hosts of the fundraiser including Mary Cheney, Margaret Hoover, and Steve Schmidt. Dick Gephardt is also among the hosts.

Said Griffin to Towleroad:

“Mehlman has committeed his own resources and been an integral part of the team at the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Our goal is to get as many people who aren’t on the side of gay marriage on our side, and once they are here, to welcome them.”

Said AFER board member Dustin Lance Black:

“Ken represents an incredible coup for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. We believe that our mission of equal rights under the law is one that should resonate with every American. As a victorious former presidential campaign manager and head of the Republican Party, Ken has the proven experience and expertise to help us communicate with people across each of the 50 states.”

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

Good for Ken. I know a lot of people will want to criticize him for heading up the GOP as a closeted gay man. He says he only recently came to terms with being gay. I suspect he always knew he was gay, but recently came to terms with accepting it, and embracing it. And good for him. He’s now doing the right thing, helping support marriage equality. I’m not going to fault him for that. Coming out is a horrendously difficult and complicated thing. It’s not rational.

Now, does that mean I oppose efforts to out people who are hurting our community? Absolutely not. I was there with the rest of them calling Mehlamn out for being a closeted gay man running a homophobic political party. Our long-time readers will remember Mehlman Mondays on AMERICAblog. I long talked about Mehlman being the only closet-heterosexual I’d ever heard of – a man not willing to admit he’s straight.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace him now. And not just for strategic reasons. Mehlman, from what Ambinder says, is doing the right thing. He’s now using his position in the GOP to help our community on our number one issue: marriage. For that, he deserves our thanks.

Now, let me say, the GOP was happily anti-gay under Mehlman, so I don’t buy his story that he helped temper their nastiness. They were still homophobic bigots, regardless of what Mehlman did or didn’t do, and he chose to remain as their head. For that, he gets no thanks. But is he making up for it today? You betcha. It’s a start, and a damn good one.

As for the Democratic party, I hope someone at the DNC is starting to sweat. We now have the former head of the Republican party who is to the left of Barack Obama on gay marriage. There’s a virtual groundswell of senior Republicans coming out for marriage equality. It can’t be going unnoticed in the gay community. And while it doesn’t mean 70% of the gay vote will now go Republican instead of Democrat, it does mean that growing numbers of gays and lesbians will starting thinking of the GOP as a legitimate alternative to the Democratic party.

And finally, how about that religious right? The Republicans lied to them about Mehlman for years. And Mehlam himself admits that he used his position as RNC chair to help stop the GOP gay-baiting. The religious right was totally pwned.

Ann Althouse:

Journey? Oh, I hear the dog-whistle. He’s calling the Oprah crowd. Family, friendssupportive… he wants Democrats, women, etc., to care about him. Don’t hate me because I’m/I’ve been a Republican. Love me, because I’m gay, and oh! how I’ve anguished in the company of Republicans.

UPDATE: Michael Calderone at Yahoo

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Gabriel Arana at Tapped

Maria Bustillos at The Awl

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The Two Propositions Of The Day: Proposition C

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Since even before President Obama signed the Democratic health care reform bill into law, federal elections have been examined as potential referendums on that bill. Most notably, the dramatic turn in Massachusetts, when Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley to steal Democrats 60-seat supermajority, was pushed as a rejection of health reform by voters.
But now voters in a true bellwether state–Missouri, which votes for the next president more often than any other state (except in 2008)–have gone to the polls and registered their opinions directly on the new law. Last night, Missourians passed Proposition C, a measure to ban the federal mandate that individuals must purchase health insurance.
The margin was overwhelming: Missourians voted 71% to 29% in favor of the measure, and against the individual mandate.
On its face, this looks like a clear victory for those who oppose health reform–proof, once and for all, that voters really don’t like the new bill.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

WOW! The Show Me State showed Obamacare the door tonight.
Over 70% of Missouri voters rejected Obamacare by passing Prop c.
It’s too bad local KMOV St. Louis Channel 4 could not find any one who voted for the proposition.

David Boaz at Cato:

Polls show continuing opposition to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi health care overhaul. It’s constitutionally dubious. And now, in the only popular vote on the bill, it received a full 29 percent of the vote. Just maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

Hugh Hewitt at Townhall:

The overwhelming rejection of Obamacare by Missouri voters –71% of the Show Me State voters said no to Obamacare– is an enormous story, one that ought to dominate the MSM today and through the week.  Obamacare hasn’t gained fans –it has gained committed activist enemies who will punish the Democrats who jammed it down the country’s throat.  Those same activists are listening to GOP candidates who pledge to repeal and replace the disaster for American health care.

Michelle Malkin

Ed Morrissey:

If anything, this shows that opposition to ObamaCare is growing, not receding, but that’s probably not what actually happened.  While general-population and registered-voter samples may have seen a bit of softening to ObamaCare opposition, those aren’t the people turning out to vote this year.  Even Rasmussen may be underestimating the power of ObamaCare repeal in its likely-voter turnout, as their last poll on this question in Missouri clearly underestimated (in an indirect survey, of course) the results for this election.

Bear in mind that over 315,000 Democrats turned out to cast ballots in the primary that nominated Robin Carnahan, while over 577,000 Republicans hit the polls.  That is about a 65/35 split — which means that a significant amount of Democrats either supported the ballot measure repudiating ObamaCare, or didn’t bother to cast a vote to defend the program.  Actually, Prop C got more votes than the combined voting in both Senate primaries — which tells us something even more about the passion in the electorate.

Democrats may have to hit the panic button after seeing the results from this swing state.  ObamaCare set fire to the electorate last year, and that may be an inferno for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in November.

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

Symbolic is one way to describe Tuesday’s vote; ominous (for the Democrats) is another.

This is yet one more electoral manifestation of the dismal polling numbers the Democrats have been facing for many months now. We saw rising popular opposition to ObamaCare throughout last summer, which many liberals ignored or ridiculed. Then came the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the Senate election Massachusetts. Since then the opposition to ObamaCare specifically, and to Obama more generally, has increased; as a result we saw the 40-plus point trouncing in Missouri, a margin far higher than most people anticipated.

It is hard to overstate the toxicity of the Obama agenda. Losing a net total of 65 or more Democratic House seats is now possible (if not yet likely). We are less than 100 days away from what looks to be an inflection point, one of those rare mid-term elections that altar the trajectory of American politics.

Doug Mataconis:

It’s unclear where things go from here with regard to this law. Missouri is not one of the states that has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government to strike down the health care law and, given that it’s Attorney General is a Democrat, it’s unlikely that they will. Moreover, given that this referendum was on the ballot during a primary dominated by Republicans, the political impact of the victory for the anti-ObamaCare crowd is somewhat muted. It’s a victory, but not really a very important or significant one.

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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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Rage Against The C-SPAN Camera Machine

Rage Against The C-SPAN Camera Machine

Jillian Rayfield at TPM:

The House was debating a bill last night that would provide up to $7.4 billion in health care aid to rescue and recovery workers who have faced health problems since their work in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The bill ultimately failed to get the needed two-thirds majority, 255-159, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was not happy about it. Not one bit.

In a rant that lasted for almost two minutes, a hopping mad Weiner railed against “cowardly” Republicans who claimed they were voting against the bill because of “procedure.” Weiner spat: “It’s Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans, rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes!”

Weiner attacked those who “stand up and say, ‘Oh, if only we had a different process we’d vote yes.’ You vote yes if you believe yes! You vote in favor of something if you believe it’s the right thing! If you believe it’s the wrong thing, you vote no!”

“It is a shame! A shame,” he exclaimed.

Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s place:

Yesterday, New York Rep. Anthony Weiner tried to channel Nikita Khrushchev minus the shoe and even some of the dignity, believe it or not. These outbursts aren’t rarities for Weiner, but this hissy fit was especially ‘roid-ragey.

[…]

Democrats are starting to make the Taiwanese Parliament look passive.

Update: Rush discusses the spitting mad Weiner in greater detail.

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

Here’s a clip of Representative Anthony Weiner losing his cool. It’s just the kind of civilized discourse and thoughtful engagement with the issues that the public is thirsting for.

I suppose Representative Weiner could be excused for his outburst; perhaps he just read the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, which Jennifer highlighted earlier today. It shows extremely bad disapproval numbers for Obama on the three issues that are shaping up to be the most important of the mid-term elections: The economy (59 percent), the deficit (65 percent), and health care (55 percent). It also shows Republicans with a double-digit lead on the generic Congressional ballot, which is something I can’t recall having occurred before.

It’s also possible that Representative Weiner had just perused the recent Pew survey, which, among other things, shows that 56 percent of Independents see the Democratic Party as more liberal than they themselves are, compared to only 39 percent who see the Republican Party as more conservative than they are. (h/t: William Galston)

It’s also possible that Mr. Weiner just read the results of the most recent CNN poll, which shows. …

Oh, well, you get the point. These are tough, depressing days for liberals and for liberalism. In both Congress and among the commentariat, heads are beginning to explode. They know what awaits them. And be prepared: it’s only going to get worse as they get more desperate.

Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics:

Anthony Weiner does his best Al Pacino imitation. For what it’s worth, I applaud the Congressman’s passion

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:

I suppose someone should post this video of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) in full meltdown mode, lighting into Republicans and Blue Dogs opposing the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. He’s already being praised from the usual quarters (what calculated passion!), though it seems to me that the Right Honorable Gentleman from Brooklyn might want a refill of his Thorazine

Wonkette:

Haha, he cares about his country and likes calling Republicans on their bullshit sometimes. Yeah, that is probably not going to work, but it is entertaining! The bill in question would have provided $7.4 billion in heath care benefits to 9/11 recovery workers, but it failed. Republicans said they voted against it because of “procedure,” according to Weiner’s tirade, and we always listen to people who are yelling, so let’s assume that is the whole story there. Later, Weiner was on Fox News and yelled at Rep. Peter King through the camera, even though King was standing behind him.

UPDATE: Anthony Weiner at NYT

Jerry Remmers at The Moderate Voice

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Filed under Political Figures

Exit The Great Orange Satan

Keith Olbermann at Daily Kos:

I was checking in tonight to see what was new, came across a diary trashing first me and my colleague Rachel, and scrolled through it shaking my head, sadly, until I got to one comment that leaped off the page.

can’t verify, of course… (2+ / 0-)
but a friend in the news biz tells me he got a damaging e-mail from one of his pals at NBC.  something to the effect that their anger was pre-planned because “beating up on the President has been good for ratings.”

I haven’t checked but I’m hearing that Olbermann slammed the speech on Twitter before it even started.

“Can’t verify”… “haven’t checked”…It can’t be verified because it’s nonsense, and it wasn’t checked because nobody bothered. Unfortunately there’s been a lot of this here lately.

And what’s more, I didn’t “slam” the speech on Twitter before it even started. I got off the phone with my White House source at about 7:35, and then summarized his description of the speech thusly::

I gather this may not be the big picture broad canvas “never again” speech redefining our nation’s energy addiction that many are expecting

Wow. What a slam!

For years, from the Katrina days onward, whenever I stuck my neck out, I usually visited here as the cliched guy in the desert stopping by the oasis. I never got universal support, and never expected it, nor wanted it (who wants an automatic “Yes” machine?). But I used to read a lot about how people here would ‘always have my back’ and trust me this was of palpable value as I fought opponents external and internal who try to knock me and Rachel off the air, all the time, in ways you can imagine and others you can’t.

Now I get to read how we pre-planned our anger because ‘beating up on the President has been good for ratings’.

If I can understand people’s frustration with seeing a speech by a Democratic president criticized in a venue such as mine, why is it impossible for some people here to accept my frustration about the speech? You don’t agree with me, fine. You don’t want to watch because you don’t agree with me, fine. But to accuse me, after five years of risking what I have to present the truth as I see it, of staging something for effect, is deeply offensive to me and is an indication of what has happened here.

You want Cheerleaders? Hire the Buffalo Jills. You want diaries with conspiracy theories, go nuts. If you want this site the way it was even a year ago, let me know and I’ll be back.

Steve Krakauer at Mediaite:

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald tweets, “Not saying this isn’t thin-skinned – it is – but what he’s reacting to is very common.”

It’s interesting to see Olbermann react strongly to the commenters who, almost universally, have been supporter of his show and his network. As he sticks with his ‘non-Obama-cheerleader’ position, it’s now clear there are some in this country far farther left than he is. It is a testament to the polarized American public that Olbermann would be on the outs with the Daily Kos and his liberal Twitter followers.

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

As a friend wrote me, “It’s a bit like the Iran-Iraq or Germany–Soviet Union wars. But who does one root for?” That is an existential question I cannot possibly hope to answer. But watching this all unfold is quite fascinating.

Liberals do seem quite unhappy these days, don’t they? Call it the Obama Effect.

David Freddoso at Washington Examiner:

Allow me to suggest that there are two kinds of crazy in politics.

First, there’s the crazy of the minority — a crazy consisting of wild conspiracy theories by the powerless. A significant minority on the liberal side excelled at this in the Bush years with conspiracy theories about 9/11; a smaller group still went further with protest violence, advocacy for violence against the military, and anti-war rallies at which the yellow Hezbollah flag flew proudly.

In the Obama era, this kind of crazy has been carried forward by the minority of conservatives who are birthers and believers that President Obama is a Muslim; there also the smaller group that actually calls for violence. (And I mean militia groups here, not just people who use figurative campaign language that causes liberals to whine.) In the Clinton era, we had the same thing in the form of the Vince Foster murder conspiracy, etc.

Then there’s the crazy of the majority, characterized by empowered groupthink. As President Bush steamrolled conservative hopes with his Farm Bill, subsidies for unsustainable businesses and executive power grabs, the Right was nearly silent. When he tried to “fix” 9/11 by creating a new and incompetent federal bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security, you could hear the crickets. The wisdom of the Iraq War was barely questioned at all by conservatives, and those who did question it (like my old boss, Robert Novak) were denounced by groupthinkers as “unpatriotic.” It wasn’t until the Harriet Miers debacle that the Right really began pushing back.

But now that the Right is out of power, liberals are suffering from this majority variety of crazy. As President Obama fails to keep his promises to the Left on curbing lobbyists and Bush-era executive power grabs, on closing Guantanamo, on showing basic competence in government, only a few on the Left are raising the skeptic’s flag.

The most prominent liberal to do so was Keith Olbermann, whose scathing criticism of Obama’s Tuesday night address nearly earned him a firing squad at the left-wing site Daily Kos.

Matt Welch at Reason

Dan Riehl:

Oh. Oh. Oh. This is so precious, it effin’ hurts through the laughter. Keif Olbermann has gotten his panties in a bunch over something he read at DailyKos and has crawled under his desk, pledging to leave the site. Keif! Come back!

Or don’t, who cares? Over 1,000 comments and counting. Enjoy the tasty goodness of it, this is a day that will live in the infamy that is Keif Olbermann. And enjoy the Blogasm sure to come via Memeorandum. I feel dirty just watching it. ha ha ha!

UPDATE: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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