American Jews Face Dilemma in Presidential Elections: Isi Leibler, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 30, 2016— The turmoil associated with the American presidential elections has impacted on much of the nation, and certainly on the Jews.
The Libya Debacle Undermines Clinton’s Foreign Policy Credentials: George F. Will, Washington Post, Mar. 30, 2016— Republican peculiarities in this political season are so numerous and lurid that insufficient attention is being paid to this: The probable Democratic nominee’s principal credential, her service as secretary of state, is undermined by a debacle of remarkable dishonesty.
What Derailed Marco Rubio?: Jonathan Bernstein, National Post, Mar. 17, 2016— The 2016 demise of Marco Rubio has been obvious for a while, but it is nevertheless a very big event. He was the Republican Party’s choice. He lost.
The Donald and the Barack: Wall Street Journal, Mar. 11, 2016— President Obama is said to be a reflective man, and often he is the one saying so, but you wouldn’t know it from his Thursday press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Four Foreign Policies: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Mar. 31, 2016
Beyond AIPAC Speeches: Assessing Israel’s Place as a U.S. Election Issue: Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, JNS, Mar. 24, 2016
Donald Trump Faces his Biggest Threat Yet: Himself: Michael Goodwin, New York Post, Apr. 2, 2016
Iran Has a Surprising Favorite in the U.S. Presidential Race: Riyadh Mohammed, Fiscal Times, Mar. 21, 2016
Jerusalem Post, Mar. 30, 2016
The turmoil associated with the American presidential elections has impacted on much of the nation, and certainly on the Jews. Many, both liberal and conservative, feel that their traditional political affiliations have been destabilized. Grass-root voters have rebelled against entrenched long-term politicians and have astounded analysts by supporting relatively obscure personalities who have introduced levels of primitive populism into American politics unseen since the days of Huey Long.
Those deeply concerned about Israel find themselves in a special quandary. Democratic supporters witnessed a struggle between Hillary Clinton — who until recently faced virtually no competition — and Bernie Sanders, a relatively unknown older Jewish senator from Vermont, a leftist throwback to prewar Jewish socialists raging against the “domination” of Wall Street and calling for a redistribution of wealth. He is also highly critical of Israel and a J Street supporter, pandering to the growing anti-Israeli sentiment among left-wing Democrats. His populism has generated substantial support, especially from young people.
Nevertheless, despite being widely resented and distrusted in her own party, Hillary Clinton is likely to win the Democratic nomination. But the dramatic flow of support of the radical views promoted by Sanders has created concern that in office, she would seek to placate the radicals within the party. That, in turn, could encourage her to revert to the hostile attitude that prevailed during her term as secretary of state toward Israel and especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It also reinforces concerns about some of the vicious anti-Israeli advisers she had engaged in the past, who were exposed in her declassified emails.
Every presidential candidate invited to the recent annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), passionately supported the Jewish state. The only exception was Sanders, who declined to address AIPAC and spoke at another location where he bitterly criticized Israel. But electoral pledges and passionate undertakings by presidential candidates and politicians at AIPAC must be treated with considerable cynicism, as from experience, they are frequently watered down or breached.
Yet, Clinton’s address to AIPAC was significant…Despite justifying President Barack Obama’s Iran policy and criticizing Israeli settlements, her powerful endorsement of support for Israel was warmly received. She distinguished herself from Obama by promising that a renewal of good relations with Israel would be a priority, and that one of her first acts in office would be to invite Netanyahu to Washington. She expressed these views obviously aware that she would be intensifying the ire of the radical anti-Israel elements in her party.
The uneasiness concerning the Clinton candidacy shared by some traditional Jewish Democratic supporters pales when compared to the turmoil among many Republican supporters at the explosive ascendancy of Donald Trump, who was initially perceived as a clown, with virtually all analysts predicting his early political demise. Trump primitively denigrates intellectual discourse but has displayed an extraordinary populist talent to communicate and reach out to the disaffected masses who have flocked to support him, ditching seasoned leaders like former Governor Jeb Bush, eliminating Senator Marco Rubio, and at this stage enjoying a substantial lead over Senator Ted Cruz, his sole remaining credible opponent.
He has adopted crude, inconsistent and contradictory policies but struck a responsive chord from many Americans alienated and frustrated with their current status and seeking radical solutions. He has created a major schism in the Republican Party because of his rabble-rousing, vulgarity, abusive remarks about women and discriminatory outbursts against minorities — especially Mexicans. Many traditional Republicans, including senior party leaders, refuse to endorse him and some have even stated that they would never vote for him as president. His critics include the neoconservatives and the most prominent conservative thinkers and commentators who are outraged by his isolationist outbursts and demagogic anti-intellectual approach.
Trump attests to his long track record of friendship for Jews and Israel and constantly highlights the fact that his daughter converted and leads a traditional Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. But those voters seeking the restoration of warmer relations between the United States and the Jewish state are concerned with Trump’s ad lib flip-flop responses in relation to Israel.
Initially, he antagonized supporters of Israel by stating that he would be “neutral” in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On one occasion, he promoted the extreme isolationist view that Israel should not be reliant on U.S. defense support and should repay American military aid. He even suggested that the U.S. should withdraw from NATO. He particularly angered Jews when initially, perhaps in ignorance, he dismissed calls to dissociate himself from support he was receiving from white supremacists and extreme anti-Semites. When it was announced that Trump would join other presidential candidates and address AIPAC, a group of Reform and Conservative rabbis planned a demonstrative walkout as he approached the podium. Their widely publicized threat turned out to be farcical and resulted in the boycott of only about 30 of the 18,000 participants.
Trump’s address to AIPAC … was his first attempt to present a crafted policy on any subject. He used a teleprompter which diverted him from his customary ad-libbing. It was an extraordinary political coup in which he received repeated standing ovations as he swept the audience off its feet by pressing all the pro-Israel buttons and systematically presenting a coherent case for Israel. He contradicted some of his earlier critical remarks, including his intention of being “neutral” in order to consummate a “deal” between Palestinians and Israel. He also announced his intention to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
George F. Will
Washington Post, Mar. 30, 2016
Republican peculiarities in this political season are so numerous and lurid that insufficient attention is being paid to this: The probable Democratic nominee’s principal credential, her service as secretary of state, is undermined by a debacle of remarkable dishonesty. Hillary Clinton’s supposedly supreme presidential qualification is not her public prominence, which is derivative from her marriage, or her unremarkable tenure in a similarly derivative Senate seat. Rather, her supposed credential is her foreign policy mastery. Well.
She cannot be blamed for Vladimir Putin’s criminality or, therefore, for the failure of her “reset” with Russia, which was perhaps worth trying. She cannot be blamed for the many defects of the Iran nuclear agreement, which was a presidential obsession. And she cannot be primarily blamed for the calamities of Iraq, Syria and the Islamic State, which were incubated before her State Department tenure. Libya, however, was what is known in tennis as an “unforced error,” and Clinton was, with President Obama, its co-author.
On March 28, 2011, nine days after the seven-month attack on Libya began and 10 days after saying that it would last “days, not weeks,” Obama gave the nation televised assurance that “the task that I assigned our forces [is] to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger and to establish a no-fly zone.” He said that U.S. forces would play only a “supporting role” in what he called a “NATO-based” operation, although only eight of NATO’s 28 members participated and the assault could not have begun without U.S. assets. Obama added: “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”
The next day, a Clinton deputy repeated this to a Senate committee. And then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at the time that no vital U.S. interest was at stake. Recently, he told the New York Times that “the fiction was maintained” that the goal was to cripple Moammar Gaddafi’s ability to attack other Libyans. This was supposedly humanitarian imperialism implementing “R2P,” the “responsibility to protect.” Perhaps as many as — many numbers were bandied — 10,000 Libyans. R2P did not extend to protecting the estimated 200,000 Syrians that have been killed since 2011 by Bashar al-Assad’s tanks, artillery, bombers, barrel bombs and poison gas.
Writing for Foreign Policy online, Micah Zenko, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, notes that “just hours into the intervention, Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from a British submarine stationed in the Mediterranean Sea struck an administrative building in [Gaddafi’s] Bab al-Azizia compound, less than 50 yards away from the dictator’s residence.” A senior military official carefully insisted that Gaddafi was “not on a targeting list.” This was sophistry in the service of cynicism: For months, places he might have been were on targeting lists.
The pretense was that this not-really-NATO operation, with the United States “supporting” it, was merely to enforce U.N. resolutions about protecting Libyans from Gaddafi. Zenko, however, argues that the coalition “actively chose not to enforce” the resolution prohibiting arms transfers to either side in the civil war. While a senior NATO military official carefully said “I have no information about” arms coming into Libya, and another carefully said that no violation of the arms embargo “has been reported,” Zenko writes that “Egypt and Qatar were shipping advanced weapons to rebel groups the whole time, with the blessing of the Obama administration.”
On May 24, 2011, NATO released a public relations video showing sailors from a Canadian frigate, supposedly enforcing the arms embargo, boarding a rebel tugboat laden with arms. The video’s narrator says: “NATO decides not to impede the rebels and to let the tugboat proceed.” Zenko writes, “A NATO surface vessel stationed in the Mediterranean to enforce an arms embargo did exactly the opposite, and NATO was comfortable posting a video demonstrating its hypocrisy.” On Oct. 20, 2011, Clinton, while visiting Afghanistan, was told that insurgents, assisted by a U.S. Predator drone, had caught and slaughtered Gaddafi. She quipped: “We came, we saw, he died.” She later said that her words expressed “relief” that the mission “had achieved its end.”
Oh, so this military adventure was, after all, history’s most protracted and least surreptitious assassination. Regime change was deliberately accomplished by the determined decapitation of the old regime, and Libyans are now living in the result — a failed state. Stopping in Libya en route to Afghanistan two days before Gaddafi’s death, Clinton said, “I am proud to stand here on the soil of a free Libya.” If you seek her presidential credential, look there.
National Post, Mar. 17, 2016
The 2016 demise of Marco Rubio has been obvious for a while, but it is nevertheless a very big event. He was the Republican Party’s choice. He lost. Starting last fall, I said he would be the most likely winner. I continued saying that through the early primaries and caucuses. In fact, he seemed on track to win up until his disappointing Super Tuesday March 1, and even in the days after that I thought he was in fairly good shape — that is, right up until his support collapsed the weekend after Super Tuesday.
Since I have been dead wrong about Rubio, I can’t turn around immediately and tell you why he lost. It’s something all of us who study presidential nominations are going to need to study, and it’s going to take some time, especially for those who believe that strong parties made up of formal organizations and informal networks control their presidential nominations. Is this year a fluke? A sign that the system has changed? Frankly, I don’t know right now. But I can run through some reasonable explanations of what happened with Rubio.
Some commentators have floated variations of this explanation. One is that Rubio wasn’t appealing to Republican voters. But for most of the contest, his favourability scores among Republicans were excellent. Even when he lagged in the horse-race polls, he usually did well when pollsters probed beyond the top vote choice among Republicans.
I’m also skeptical of blaming his position on immigration or his hawkish foreign policy. Both John McCain and Mitt Romney won Republican nominations with problems that were more severe. A more plausible explanation of Rubio’s weakness is that he choked under pressure. His poor debate before the New Hampshire primary, when he repeated a line multiple times, and his debate after Super Tuesday, when he got down in the mud with Donald Trump, both appear to have been disasters. Though parties normally choose their nominees, this Republican Party isn’t normal — it’s dysfunctional. Political scientist Norman Ornstein has pushed this line since August, and he could be correct. Republicans’ attacks on experts, the media and even the “establishment” of their own party made it more difficult than it should have been to explain why Trump was such a pariah.
But it was about more than Trump. Party actors took a long time to decide on Rubio, and even then their choice wasn’t close to a consensus. Some of them permitted Jeb Bush to stay in through South Carolina, and he spent that Bush faction’s considerable resources targeting Rubio. Another substantial faction supported Ted Cruz, even though many Washington Republicans dislike him so much that they were willing to play footsie with Trump back in January. And John Kasich has had a fair amount of party support as well, which perhaps is why he has been able to fight on.
No theory could have accounted for him. (People have used the analogy of the Mule in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, a mutant whose inhuman abilities disrupted the normal development of politics in the universe.) But I’m skeptical of this explanation, too. Trump is good at grabbing the new media’s attention, but it’s hard to see much evidence that he’s unusually talented in any other way. Still, if the party’s power flows from its ability to capture voters’ attention, it fizzled when the news coverage of Trump overwhelmed other sources of information. None of the above explanations are mutually exclusive. Perhaps they all played a role.\
Rubio finished just one per cent of the vote behind Trump in Iowa. If Republican Party actors had converged on him a few weeks earlier — or if Bush’s super PAC had targeted Trump or Cruz with some of the ads aimed at Rubio, the Florida senator could easily have finished second or even won the state, perhaps knocking out Cruz. If he hadn’t botched the New Hampshire debate, he probably would have finished second there, knocking out Kasich (probably) and Bush (perhaps) earlier and setting up a better finish in South Carolina…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Wall Street Journal, Mar. 11, 2016
President Obama is said to be a reflective man, and often he is the one saying so, but you wouldn’t know it from his Thursday press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Asked about political polarization and the Donald Trump phenomenon, Mr. Obama denied all responsibility. He doesn’t seem to appreciate the kind of country he will leave behind. “What I’m not going to do is to validate some notion that the Republican crack-up that’s been taking place is a consequence of actions that I’ve taken,” Mr. Obama said. He explained Mr. Trump’s ascent as the result of “the nasty tone of our politics, which I certainly have not contributed to.” He blamed Republicans for this tone, as ever.
“Objectively,” Mr. Obama said, “it’s fair to say that the Republican political elites and many of the information outlets—social media, news outlets, talk radio, television stations—have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years a notion that everything I do is to be opposed; that cooperation or compromise somehow is a betrayal.” He listed a few more GOP shortcomings, but you’ve got to hand it to him for that “objectively.” As Mr. Obama tells it, all of this reflexive Obama bashing created “an environment where somebody like a Donald Trump can thrive. He’s just doing more of what has been done for the last seven and a half years.” In other words, Republicans didn’t clean up the standing water in their own backyard and now they’re complaining about mosquitoes. One irony is that even as Mr. Obama denied any liability for Mr. Trump, he lapsed into the same rhetorical habit that helped fuel the businessman’s ascent. For Mr. Obama, principled opposition to his policies is always illegitimate or motivated by bad faith.
Like the President’s nonstop moral lectures about “our values” and “who we are as Americans,” by which he means liberal values and who we are as Democrats, he reads his critics out of politics. No wonder so many Americans feel disenfranchised and powerless. And if we’re being objective, maybe Mr. Obama could account for the populist uprising among disaffected Democratic primary voters for a 74-year-old Vermont socialist vowing an economic revolution. Bernie Sanders is Mr. Trump’s leftward duplicate. The difference is that the Democratic establishment is doing a better job keeping their outsider away from a delegate majority.
The source of this public frustration is no great mystery. For the 10th straight year, the U.S. economy is growing by less than 3%. Such a long stretch of underperformance hasn’t happened since the 1930s. Slow growth for a decade means middle-class incomes are stagnant, which in turn increases economic anxiety, which in turn creates political unrest. As for tone, the 1980s and 1990s featured bitter partisan conflicts—and for that matter so did the 1880s and 1790s. But the late 20th century had popular two-term Presidencies almost back to back, and the era didn’t produce backlash candidates promising to burn Washington to the ground and salt the earth. The reason is that the economy was booming.
Mr. Obama’s apologists claim 2%-2.5% growth is the best we can do, but the truth is that the natural dynamism of the U.S. economy has been swamped by waves of Mr. Obama’s bad policy. Instead of a second term that is bereft of domestic achievements, in an alternate universe he might have worked with the duly elected Republican majority and started to repair the economy from the center out. Instead, Mr. Obama has shown contempt for institutions that he doesn’t run, and, notably, most of his growth-subtracting policies have been imposed through unilateral executive action. He doesn’t do persuasion and compromise. Some policies were intended to sow division, like his lawless immigration order that inflamed the restrictionist right, divided Republican elites and was only stopped by the courts…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
The Four Foreign Policies: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Mar. 31, 2016—After dozens of contests featuring cliffhangers, buzzer-beaters and a ton of flagrant fouls, we’re down to the Final Four: Sanders, Clinton, Cruz and Trump. (If Kasich pulls off a miracle, he’ll get his own column.) The world wants to know: What are their foreign policies?
Beyond AIPAC Speeches: Assessing Israel’s Place as a U.S. Election Issue: Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, JNS, Mar. 24, 2016—At the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, each of the remaining United States presidential candidates—except for Democratic contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who did not appear—essentially laid claim to being the most pro-Israel candidate.
Donald Trump Faces his Biggest Threat Yet: Himself: Michael Goodwin, New York Post, Apr. 2, 2016—If Tuesday’s vote in Wisconsin goes according to the polls, Donald Trump’s remarkable ride to the Republican nomination will crash into a wall. And if he never recovers his momentum, the postmortems will say his front-runner status was an illusion befitting a modern P.T. Barnum.
Iran Has a Surprising Favorite in the U.S. Presidential Race: Riyadh Mohammed, Fiscal Times, Mar. 21, 2016— After years of isolation and sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Nations, Iran is quickly reclaiming its place in the Middle East and on the global stage.