Archive for February, 2009

On Partisanship

The President’s stimulus package was passed by Congress last week with both houses voting along largely partisan lines. Every Republican in the House voted no, while only seven Democrats voted against the package. In the Senate, every Democrat voted in favor, while all the Republicans, except for three, voted against the package.

This has led some to criticize Republicans for “being partisan.”

What nonsense.

When a Senator like John McCain, who has spent his entire career opposing wasteful spending and speaking out against large deficits, votes against a massive spending plan that will lead by all accounts to an increased deficit, he is not being partisan. He is being true to his beliefs, hewing to the same ideology he has always espoused. He also his doing right by the constituents who elected him based on those long-held beliefs.

And for the record, the same applies to those Democrats who voted in favor of the plan- if a Democrat who always believed that the government should spend-spend-spend in order to deal with economic slowdowns voted for the package, he or she is not being partisan but also sticking to their guns.

I just wonder if all the Obama supporters who demand that Republicans “set aside partisanship and support the President” ever felt a similar obligation when we had a conservative Republican president. I don’t recall many of my fellow New Yorkers urging Democrats to support Ronald Reagan’s agenda, notwithstanding that Reagan twice was elected in a landslide, with far bigger margins than Obama.

Barack Obama was elected President. He won fair and square. And he ran on a specific agenda. But – news flash – every member of congress also won an election. And many of them won (especially those representing conservative districts) by promising to be fiscally conservative and promising to oppose a massive government expansion. They are not being partisan when they vote exactly the way they promised to vote.

I don’t know of any Republican member of Congress who got elected last fall by promising to support a massive government “stimulus” spending package, and promised to support legislation that would lead to a massive increase in the deficit.

Bottom line: if you didn’t demand that Democrats “set aside partisanship” and support Dubya (or Bush I, or Reagan), you have no right to demand that Republicans do the same and support Obama.


Answers From Israel

In response to an email, two friends of StillRight who live in Israel (hereafter referred to as “C” and “M”) were kind enough to answer some questions I had about the upcoming election there and other related issues. Here’s the Q and A:

Who is going to win the election in Israel?

C: Likud looks like it will get more seats than any other party, and it seems pretty clear that right-wing bloc (Likud, Lieberman, Shas and the other religious parties) will have a majority of the 120 Knesset seats. There is still plenty of jockeying among the parties, particularly between Likud and Lieberman, but it shouldn’t affect the overall outcome of a victory for the right.
M: Probably Bibi.

Will Bibi form a true unity coalition with centrist and left parties, or a center-right coalition?

C: Bibi has, not surprisingly, spoken out of both sides of his mouth on this one. Most of the campaign he emphasized his intention to form a broad government with all “Zionist” parties of the right and left, in an attempt to be perceived as more moderate. When he saw the right-wing satellite parties gaining on him, like Lieberman, he tried to take their votes by turning right. Hard to tell what he will ultimately do.
M: Center-right.

Whom are you voting for and briefly why?

C: Still unsure, but leaning to Kadima. I’m holding out a waning hope that maybe Livni still has a shot of becoming prime minister instead of Bibi.
M: Tzippi [Livni], mostly with the hope of bringing in Labor and keeping out Lieberman.

Bibi- principled leader or total opportunist?

C: One of the interesting outcomes of Bibi serving as Finance Minister was learning that he does have some principles. He really does believe in the free-market. On land/peace issues, however, he has no principles whatsoever and will just see which way the wind blows.
M: Neither, but he’s aligned more to the right and the political system forces opportunism over true leadership.

Any chance that we will see real civil reform in Israel (marriage and other church-state matters)?

C: Unfortunately, none whatsoever. As usual, the land/peace issues will continue to dominate the political scene, even though there are parties on the right (Lieberman) and left (Meretz) who would support that agenda.
M: Not in the near future.

Was this campaign as devoid of a discussion of issues as the media here made it seem?

C: Absolutely. There is also a high percentage of undecided voters (unusual in this land of overly decisive people) and a lot of shifting voters. No one seems to have any strong feelings in favor of any particular party.
M: Issues, what issues?

Will the action in Gaza heat up or calm down in the months ahead?

C: Hard to imagine Gaza staying calm for long.
M: Heat up.

Will the Israeli public support a trade for Gilad Shalit even if it means giving up as many as 1000 prisoners?

C: Definitely. Israelis supported the release of the child-killer Samir Kuntar for the bodies of Goldwasser and Regev from Lebanon, and they will support the release of many murderers for Gilad. It will be very difficult for the families of the victims of these terrorists, but it will go through.
M: Yes.

Don’t Israelis feel that such trades only encourage more kidnappings?

C: Yes, and yet they keep falling into the same trap. Everyone is motivated by the fear that one day they might be in the same position as the Shalit family.
M: They don’t like to think about that, they just picture their own son being kidnapped.

Any other random thoughts/ parting shots/ or predictions?

C: Expect major tension to come almost as soon as the next government takes office, when Obama/Mitchell demand that Israel stop all new construction in the West Bank. Israel already agreed to this in the context of Bush’s road map (with Bibi voting in favor at the time as part of Ariel Sharon’s government), but they never actually lived up to their commitment. I don’t think Obama will be as accommodating.
M: The big deal here is Lieberman as the third party that will determine the direction of the government. Many people are choosing who they’ll vote for based on how scared they are of Lieberman. Personally, I see him as Jurg Haider without the boyfriend.


Israel, Hamas, Fatah, and the State of Affairs

This is a long but very interesting description of where things stand right now with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It comes from a Palestinian journalist named Khaled Abu Toameh and is delivered on Micheal Totten’s invaluable website. It’s well worth printing out and reading when you have some time and want a great refresher on the state of affairs. I can’t say I agree with all of it, but it certainly seems quite rational, at least from my safe perch here in New York.



Paterson v. Kennedy: The Inside Story

This article in today’s Times offers a fascinating look at the efforts made by (accidental) Governor David Paterson to “discredit” Caroline Kennedy in the days surrounding her withdrawal from consideration for the state’s vacant Senate seat.

The article reveals just how little has changed in Albany, noting that it is all reminiscent of the Spitzer administration’s efforts against political foes.

Do these guys ever learn?

Of course, Fred Dicker of the New York Post had been all over this a while ago, and called Paterson a flat-out “liar” for claiming he had no idea who was leaking anti-Kennedy information to the press. The Manhattan elite will never embrace the Post, but you will not find a better reporter on state politics than Fred Dicker.


Krauthammer Gives Obama A History Lesson

How I love to read Charles Krauthammer’s column. Time and again, the man slices through the politicians’ rhetoric with cold hard facts. And this column is an absolute beaut.

Krauthammer takes Barack Obama to task for Obama’s recent interview wherein Obama basically fell on his knees and apologized to the Muslim world, saying “we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect…[to] restore [the] same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.”

Krauthammer responds by reminding us of precisely what the United States has done in that period:

In these most recent 20 years — the alleged winter of our disrespect of the Islamic world — America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for them. It engaged in five military campaigns, every one of which involved — and resulted in — the liberation of a Muslim people: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. The two Balkan interventions — as well as the failed 1992-93 Somali intervention to feed starving African Muslims (43 Americans were killed) — were humanitarian exercises of the highest order, there being no significant U.S. strategic interest at stake. In these 20 years, this nation has done more for suffering and oppressed Muslims than any nation, Muslim or non-Muslim, anywhere on earth. Why are we apologizing?

Does Barack Obama not know any of this?

While Obama was apologizing and wringing his hands on Al-Arabiya, Charles Krauthammer was dealing in facts. Krauthammer writes:

As in Obama’s grand admonition: “We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith’s name.” Have “we” been doing that, smearing Islam because of a small minority? George Bush went to the Islamic Center in Washington six days after 9/11, when the fires of Ground Zero were still smoldering, to declare “Islam is peace,” to extend fellowship and friendship to Muslims, to insist that Americans treat them with respect and generosity of spirit.

And America listened. In these seven years since 9/11 — seven years during which thousands of Muslims rioted all over the world (resulting in the death of more than 100) to avenge a bunch of cartoons — there’s not been a single anti-Muslim riot in the United States to avenge the greatest massacre in U.S. history. On the contrary. In its aftermath, we elected our first Muslim member of Congress and our first president of Muslim parentage.

It seems Charles Krauthammer is a far more proud American than our President.


Kristof: Obama Will Be Less Supportive of Israel

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s forte is foreign policy, and most would agree that he is a lot less shrill and a lot less partisan than his fellow columnist Paul Krugman. Because he has a more measured, and in my opinion a fairer, tone than Krugman, I find his column a worthwhile read.

Today he turns his attention to the Middle East, and compares President Bush’s approach to the expected approach of President Obama. First, he gives his assessment of President Bush’s view:

President Bush’s problem was that he loved Israel too much. He embraced Israeli leaders even when they responded to provocations by killing more than 1,300 people in Gaza, according to Gaza health officials — in retaliation for shelling that had killed fewer than 30 Israelis since it began in 2001.

Then by contrast, he makes the following observation about the emerging Obama policy by noting the apparent enthusiasm towards the new administration at the recent conference in Davos:

[There was] a much more positive undercurrent here — enthusiasm for more American engagement in the region, in a more evenhanded way.

So in his view, Bush loved Israel too much, and Obama is more “evenhanded.” In other words, Kristof and the leaders at Davos are all fired up because Obama won’t be backing Israel as strongly.

And what are the specific policy implications of that? Kristof spells out exactly what he hopes to see happen:

Israel must lift the siege of Gaza, completely opening the crossings. If Hamas resumes its unconscionable rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, then bomb the tunnels or strike Hamas targets in a proportional way, but don’t escalate.

This is moronic. He expects Israel to allow Hamas to totally re-arm. Just like that. And then he says Israel should respond if Hamas resumes attacks, as if there is any doubt at all that this is exactly what would happen. And then he adds that when the inevitable attacks come, Israel should only respond “in a proportional way”, notwithstanding that this would do absolultely nothing to deter further attacks.

This is foolishness and naivete, driven by idealism that has no basis in reality.

Now ordinarily, I would say “who cares” in response to a foolish and naive post from a New York Times columnist. But as is clear from the column, Kristof is under the impression that Barack Obama shares his “even-handed” vision. And he is probably right.

And you know, we’ve been down this path before. After all, Bill Clinton was fool enough to trust Yasser Arafat. How’d that work out?