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Monday, May 31, 2004

Thank You for Sharing; Another Staff Mistake.

David Postman, chief political reporter for The Seattle Times, lists the "20 Things Sen. Kerry Taught Us" during his visit last week to Seattle:

15. Kerry must have gone to a really good grade school. In his Wednesday speech he said:

"Well, let me share a scientific fact with this president that most children in school learn very quickly. God only gave the United States 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. The Middle East has 65 percent, Saudi Arabia alone has 46 percent. We import 60 percent of our fuel oil from other countries and growing."

The public schools I attended didn't offer Introduction to Comparative Worldwide Distribution of Petroleum Reserves until middle school.

Well, Bush probably wouldn’t have learned this in Middle School, or at Yale, or even at Harvard Business School, because, you know, he eschews complexity.

Meanwhile, in another report on Kerry’s trip to Seattle, we learn that:

On Thursday, at the conclusion of his speech in Seattle, Kerry said, "We do not have to live in fear or stand alone. We don't have to be a lonely watchman on the walls of freedom."

In a speech that his staff had billed as a "major" policy address, but which broke no new ground and read like Kerry's stump speech, the watchman line is the most evocative and stands out.

But it turns out that Kerry -- or his speechwriters -- lifted it from a speech President John F. Kennedy was to give on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, at the Trade Mart in Dallas -- on the day Kennedy was shot and killed on his way to the event. . . .

"He'll probably blame it on his speechwriters, the way he blames them for everything else," says a former staffer for Wesley Clark.

Another day, another staff mistake.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Memorial Day.

George W. Bush’s eloquent remarks at the World War II Memorial dedication are worth reading in their entirety -- as an act of memory and appreciation:

In the history books, the Second World War can appear as a series of crises and conflicts, following an inevitable course -- from Pearl Harbor to the Coast of Normandy to the deck of the Missouri. Yet, on the day the war began, and on many hard days that followed, the outcome was far from certain.

There was a time, in the years before the war, when many earnest and educated people believed that democracy was finished. Men who considered themselves learned and civilized came to believe that free institutions must give way to the severe doctrines and stern discipline of a regimented society.

Ideas first whispered in the secret councils of a remote empire, or shouted in the beer halls of Munich, became mass movements. And those movements became armies. And those armies moved mercilessly forward -- until the world saw Hitler strutting in Paris, and U.S. Navy ships burning in their own port.

* * *

These were the modest sons of a peaceful country, and millions of us are very proud to call them Dad. They gave the best years of their lives to the greatest mission their country ever accepted. They faced the most extreme danger, which took some and spared others, for reasons only known to God. . . .

On this Memorial Day weekend, the graves will be visited, and decorated with flowers and flags. Men whose step has slowed are thinking of boys they knew when they were boys together. And women who watched the train leave, and the years pass, can still see the handsome face of their young sweetheart. America will not forget them, either.

At this place, at this Memorial, we acknowledge a debt of long-standing to an entire generation of Americans: those who died; those who fought and worked and grieved and went on. They saved our country, and thereby saved the liberty of mankind.

Fortunately, the Greatest Generation did not insist on an exit strategy as a condition of staying the course.

Friday, May 28, 2004

The Nuanced Winston Churchill.

Josh Levin, writing in Slate, summarizes stories in the current issues of Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly:

Newsweek says that while President Bush consciously draws parallels to the WWII leaders -- he sits at FDR's old desk and has a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office -- the comparisons aren't so apt: "Bush eschews complexity; FDR and Churchill embraced it .. . .”

The [Atlantic Monthly] cover story's criticisms of Tony Blair -- he's not much of an intellectual, he's too much of a moralist, he misled his country on the case for war -- sound like the boilerplate arguments against the prime minister's Iraq war partner, George W. Bush.

What will we learn next -- that Blair eschews complexity?

If one is in the midst of a war, it is instructive to consult Volume II of Churchill’s History of the Second Word War: "Their Finest Hour." After Volume I's chronicle of years of appeasement and ignoring of threats, Volume II picks up with the actual war that resulted.

Here is a condensation of the first two paragraphs:

Now at last the slowly-gathered, long-pent-up fury of the storm broke upon us. Four or five millions of men met each other in the first shock of the most merciless of all the wars of which record has been kept.

Within a week the front in France, behind which we had been accustomed to dwell through the hard years of the former war and the opening phase of this, was to be irretrievably broken. Within three weeks the long-famed French Army was to collapse in rout and ruin, and our only British Army was to be hurled into the sea with all its equipment lost.

Within six weeks we were to find ourselves alone, almost disarmed, with triumphant Germany and Italy at our throats, with the whole of Europe open to Hitler’s power, and Japan glowering on the other side of the globe.

It was amid these facts and looming prospects that I entered upon my duties as Prime Minister . . . .

Five years later almost to a day it was possible to take a more favorable view of our circumstances. Italy was conquered and Mussolini slain. The mighty German Army had surrendered unconditionally. Hitler had committed suicide. . . . France was liberated, rallied, and revived. Hand in hand with our Allies . . . we advanced to the swift annihilation of Japanese resistance.

The contrast was certainly remarkable. The road across these five years was long, hard and perilous. Those who perished upon it did not give their lives in vain. Those who marched forward to the end will always be proud to have trodden it with honor.

Five years. And to think he did it all without any nuance.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

History Without End.

From Ron Rosenbaum's Introduction to "Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism" -- discussing the reasons for anti-Semitism:

[P]erhaps -- and this might sound at first like a radical suggestion -- it doesn’t matter anymore.

The reasons, like the origins, no longer matter. At this point anti-Semitism has become so embedded in history . . . that it will always be there, a template for whatever hurts need to find an easy answer, a simple-minded balm: the Jews are responsible.

The explanation of renewed anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism . . . . It has become its own origin. . . .

One important thing [Leon Wieseltier] said is that those who consider that anti-Semitism is a problem only for Jews ought to reconsider:

"If anti-Semitism is to vanish from the earth it will be from the transformation of non-Jewish rather than Jewish [peoples] . . . . In this sense it is not a Jewish problem at all . . . it is a prejudice whose object is not its cause . . . if you wish to study racism, study whites, not blacks."

This really is an essential book. It includes Fianna Nirenstein’s remarkable essay, "How I Became an ‘Unconscious Fascist’" -- which itself is worth having the book for.

And Cynthia Ozick’s Afterword is an essay that burns with -- in Rosenbaum’s words -- the "incandescent clarity of a biblical prophet."

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Stewart Weiss, director of the Ohel Ari-Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, Israel, writes on the meaning of Shavuot, which begins at sunset this evening:

Shavuot is the Jewish holiday that "gets no respect." Though it commemorates the cataclysmic event when God Himself descended upon Mt. Sinai to personally deliver the Ten Commandments, it receives little of the fanfare accompanying the other festivals.

It is short in duration; just one day (in Israel), as opposed to Pesach and Sukkot, which take up an entire week; it has no visible symbols or objects to latch on to, such as the matzah, menorah or shofar. . . .

And yet for all the ambiguity and anonymity of Shavuot, I suggest it is the centerpiece of the Jewish year and critical to the notion of Jewish nationhood -- then and now.

The rest of the article is here.

Friday, May 21, 2004

A Friday Miscellaney

Yael has been blogging up a storm this week at Boker Tov, Boulder. Don't miss it.

James Lileks, on listening to a radio talk show discussing Fritz Holling's article attributing the liberation of Iraq to "Bush's policy to secure Israel:"

What caused the war with Iraq? Simple! Charles Krauthammer used his super-powerful Jew Beams to cloud the minds of hapless pliable goyim. Then Bush realized he could win reelection by getting that overwhelming number of Jewish voters.

I know this sounds naive, but I still expect better from Senators. Better writing, better thinking. But I am coming to believe that the Senate is one of the biggest dunce-clubs around.

Here come the anti-Semitic calls. First one from a Republican who’s agreeing with a Democrat for the first time in his life! We were attacked in Somalia, says the first caller, because of our relationship to Israel. And the Bali bombing was because Australia supports Israel.

Man, did 9/11 overturn a large rock.

George Bush, in his commencement address at LSU today:

Let me leave you with one more lesson.

Wherever life takes us, and whatever challenges we meet, each one of us has much to be grateful for.

And the proper measure of response of a grateful heart is service. There's no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Everyone has had a little help along the way.

It is a sign of maturity to remember our debts, and a sign of grace to pass the favor along in generosity to others. There's a wise saying: We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Does Anyone Know of a New York Restaurant Suitable for a Meeting of Several Foreign Leaders and Ordinary Congresspeople?

Rabbi Michael Lerner has sent out several emails asking members of the "Tikkun Community" to call the media and “reverse the impact that AIPAC is having at this very moment.” Here is a portion of his analysis:

AIPAC Brings the Reactionaries and the Well-Intentioned Confused in the Jewish World Together.

According to wire service reports, the AIPAC gathering in DC often resembled a Republican Party stump rally -- long before Bush even arrived, whenever his name was mentioned there were roaring standing ovations in support of his foreign policy in general and his support for Sharon in particular. . . .

So how do people who are so out of step with the rest of the Jewish people and the American people, get to be the focus of so much power that ordinary Congresspeople told us, when we met with them in April, that they feared even talking about criticisms of America's support for Sharon lest AIPAC take them on and defeat them?

I hope Rabbi Lerner will provide a list of the "ordinary Congresspeople" who fear "even talking" about criticisms of America’s support for Sharon.

Since he says he met with them, he must know who they are.

Here is AIPAC’s description of what appealed to both reactionaries and well-intentioned confused people:

Bush, speaking to a crowd of about 4,000 Tuesday at AIPAC's annual Policy Conference, expressed strong support for the U.S.-Israel relationship and reaffirmed Israel's right to self-defense.

"Our nation is stronger and safer because we have a true and dependable ally in Israel… A free, prosperous and secure Israel is in this nation's national interest," Bush proclaimed.

He continued: "The United States is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state. Israel is a democracy and a friend, and has every right to defend itself from terror."

Bush also thanked AIPAC members for their Israel advocacy work: "In a dangerous new century, your work is more vital than ever. I thank you for doing your part in the cause of freedom."

During his remarks, President Bush also called on the Palestinians to fight terrorism before they could establish a state, pushed for democracy throughout the Arab world and vowed to build a peaceful and free Iraq. Read the full text of the President's remarks.

The Jewish Press has an interesting report on Bush’s appearance, including comments of various people in the audience.

AIPAC reports that its membership has grown since September 2000 over 50 percent, to over 85,000 across the country. Alot of reactionaries and well-intentioned confused people.

Certain foreign leaders and ordinary Congresspeople may want a different president, but why would someone concerned about Israel? Even John Kerry supports the president on this one (or does he?).

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

George W. Bush at AIPAC

George W. Bush spoke this morning at AIPAC, in a speech continually interrupted by applause:

Our nation, and the nation of Israel, have much in common.

We're both relatively young nations, born of struggle and sacrifice.

We're both founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution in other lands.

We have both built vibrant democracies, built on the rule of law and market economies.

And we're both countries founded on certain basic beliefs: that God watches over the affairs of men, and values every life.

These ties have made us natural allies, and these ties will never be broken.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Halacha and Home

Danny Gordis, who moved to Israel from America six years ago, has a new "Dispatch from Israel," about the national debate over withdrawal from Gaza and sending in soldiers to search for the remains of soldiers killed there:

[S]uddenly, this week, experts in halakhah (Jewish law) were sought for one radio talk show after another. . . .

How does one balance the command not to risk life for anything except to save life, with the command to do whatever we possibly can to make sure that every Jew gets a Jewish burial? . . .

Can we put soldiers in harm's way so that these very soldiers, and all their friends, will know that if, Heaven forbid, something like this happens to them, we'll get them home?

The front page of HaAretz today has a headline that reads "Edron's Sister Hopes His Death will Lead to Withdrawal; Aviad's Father -- Gaza is Ours." Pretty much sums it up. Even the bereaved families can't agree on what should emerge from all this.

And the rest of the country?

Even those who want to get out, and get out now, have no idea how to answer the question everyone's thinking about -- "If we leave, and they turn all of Gaza into a Hamas Disneyland, and they start firing Kassam rockets at Ashkelon and Ashdod, aren't we just going to have to go back in and take it over? And won't that be more dangerous?"

It's enough to make you dizzy, or worse, to make you just give it all up. But that doesn’t happen here. Few people give up here, because it's home.

When you watch people listening to the radio this week with an intensity that I've seen nowhere else, you know you're home.

When you see the vacant faces of people as they listen, and ask the person next to them with horror, "what do you mean there are no bodies," as if it had been their own child, you know you're home.

You're home because you know that this is the only place where an entire country could be consumed with the question of how Jews should be buried.

As with virtually all of Gordis' writing, worth reading in its entirety.

Friday, May 14, 2004

One Conflict on Many Fronts

Saul Singer on "The Two-Conflict Delusion:"

Events in Israel and Iraq are linked not just because the terrorists in each place compete to raise the current global terrorist threshold.

They are linked because the hooded men who displayed the head of an Israeli soldier and those who decapitated Nick Berg are part of the same global jihad. One wants an Islamic dictatorship in Iraq, the other the same thing but in place of Israel.

This should go without saying, yet there is still a strong impulse to pretend that there are two separate conflicts. When I suggested this to a visiting leader of a major American Jewish organization, he insisted that the conflicts are separate . . . .

Worth reading to find out why the American Jewish leader had that view, and Singer’s response.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Do Summers Produce Major Explosions? Or Do Certain Other Elements?

Edward R. F. Sheehan, former U.S. diplomat in the Middle East and Fellow of Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, was in Ramallah in March and spoke to "one of the PA officials close to Arafat."

This well-known Palestinian went on to predict that the summer of 2004 will produce a major explosion in both Palestine and Iraq, with the possible support of Syria and Iran.

"I don't say that it will be directly coordinated, but all these elements will work to defeat Bush in the elections." We might, he said, see something resembling what happened in Somalia happen in Iraq.

What happened in Somalia was that the United States ran away. But there was a different president in office then, and the American street had not yet been aroused.

Nice to know, though, from the "well-known" (and presumably well-informed) Palestinian, that the goal is to effect the coming election.

Wonder if he was ever in a New York restaurant with John Kerry.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Daniel Pearl, Tali Hatuel, Nick Berg, and six Israeli soldiers today -- murdered and body parts held for ransom.

From a thread regarding the soldiers at LGF today -- a series of comments by WriterMom and Merav, writing from Israel, each of whose brother-in-law was murdered by savages. (The comments, made over the course of the day, have been edited here):

Writer Mom:

I am still haunted by the images of Tali Hatuel and her children -- I can literally hear her husband in my head saying "How can I wake up in the morning?"

Then -- they shoot at the mourners. Then they kill more of our soldiers and like beasts, hold up and squirrel away body parts. There is nothing sacred to them.

I'm sitting here crying now, thinking about my own brother-in-law, who never did anything to anyone, and the way they murdered him -- and my in-laws -- my mother-in-law with a hole ripped through her soul and his kids wondering where their Abba went and watching my husband trying to cope with the unending loss and trying to find some words to say to his wife.

We have this picture of my brother-in-law in our kitchen and I get upset every time I see it. When we light a yartzeit candle, the glow kind of lights up the room and his face at the same time and I get sad all over again.

It's the nightmare that you never wake up from. I still can't believe he's gone.

What is particularly revolting is that these savages know that Jews consider every single part of the human presence on earth to be a holy thing -- a part of the divine. Think of the ZAKA volunteers who comb the ground, and cards for those single fragments. It's not enough to kill us, they have to further torture the families by prolonging a burial, and holding up body pieces, desecrating the dead as prizes.

We are just finishing writing a Sefer Torah in his memory and it will be presented to my father-in-law’s shul in Jerusalem this summer.

Our outrage has to be channeled to tangible things like good deeds, prayer, helping others, giving charity, helping the survivors however we can and remembering the souls of the people we lost. One good deed, one more mitzvah can move mountains.


My husband lost his brother too. He was a soldier in the Golani brigade and it was a long time ago. I have seen my mother-in-law, after all these years, lie sobbing on Benny's grave, hugging it as if it was a person. Benny died a week before his wedding was to take place. He was 19.

Today I took a day trip to Jerusalem . . . I rode the bus, nervous the whole time, but we can't live in a plastic bubble.

As I was riding home, the woman sitting next to me, a stranger, was obviously wanting to talk. Finally she asked me if I'd heard The News. I had, and she started crying. She told me her son had just enlisted, and that her neighbor's son was one of the soldiers killed today.

How awful for the families. First, losing a loved one. Secondly, not being able to bury him. Third, knowing his body is being molested by thugs. Fourth, knowing his body will possibly be used to release terrorists, which he died fighting to protect us against.

Amnesty International and the UN may not acknowledge it, but this too is a form of torture.

Last week, with the Hatuel family, and tonight, with the human body parts. This is simply too much. Too merciless. Too inhuman. Too evil.

This has to stop. It has to be stopped. . . . It's been allowed to fester long enough.

UPDATE: Anne has more pictures here.

Monday, May 10, 2004

God Bless America.

Ben Stein devotes his latest diary to an "American Salute," reflecting on "[w]hat a lucky life I lead" in America.

His entry for a Friday night reads:

I am at a gathering honoring Holocaust Survivors and a museum they have made in Orlando, Florida.

The Holocaust Survivors are a spectacularly sprightly and lively group, especially the leader of the group, Tess Wisse. She is still beautiful and still full of fight. She gave a brilliant speech, and I followed it with a few jokes and a speech about devotion to one's parents.

When I finished . . . [a] smallish older Jewish man named Eddie came up to me and hugged me. His tears soaked my shirt onto my chest.

"I am a survivor," he said. "My father did not survive. They took him away the night before Yom Kippur.

"He said, 'I will not survive, but you must survive to bring up your son the way I brought up mine.'

"No one has ever brought up the feelings in me he did until I heard you tonight. Thank you for making me think of my father in this way and on this night.'"

And then he hugged me for so long I started to cry, too.

. . . And when I walked out of the auditorium, there was no SS, no Hamas (the Middle East wing of the SS), no NKVD, just glorious, free America. God bless, God bless.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

"The Modern 'Hep, Hep, Hep!'"

Cynthia Ozick has an absolutely stunning essay in The New York Observer today (hat tip: DB).

We thought it was finished.

The ovens are long cooled, the anti-vermin gas dissipated into purifying clouds, cleansed air, nightmarish fable.

The cries of the naked, decades gone, are mute; the bullets splitting throats and breasts and skulls, the human waterfall of bodies tipping over into the wooded ravine at Babi Yar, are no more than tedious footnotes on aging paper. The deportation ledgers, with their scrupulous lists of names of the doomed, what are they now? Museum artifacts.

The heaps of eyeglasses and children’s shoes, the hills of human hair, lie disintegrating in their display cases, while only a little distance away the visitors’ cafeteria bustles and buzzes: sandwiches, Cokes, the waiting tour buses.

We thought it was finished. In the middle of the twentieth century, and surely by the end of it, we thought it was finished, genuinely finished, the bloodlust finally slaked. . . . Naïvely, foolishly, stupidly, hopefully, a-historically, we thought that the cannibal hatred, once quenched, would not soon wake again.

It has awakened.

Continue reading here.

Cynthia Ozick’s essay will appear as the "Afterword" in "Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism" (Random House: May 18, 2004), edited and introduced by Ron Rosenbaum.

The anthology includes essays and reportage by Paul Berman, David Brooks, Nat Hentoff, Bernard Lewis, David Mamet, Amos Oz, Frank Rich, Jonathan Rosen, Simon Schama, Judith Shulevitz, Gabriel Schoenfeld, Ruth Wisse and more than 30 others.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Flip-Flop That Wasn’t.

The Jewish Press publishes "Kerry, Carter and Israel."

On Israel, he was trying to flip-flop. But did he really?

We link. You decide.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Kerry Version 3.0

Lawrence Kaplan, in the current issue of The New Republic, has an article entitled "Hebrew Lessons: Kerry’s Jewish Problem," in which Kaplan describes the now-famous meeting with Jewish leaders in New York, just before the March 2 primary:

On February 28, the Kerry team arranged for the candidate to sit down with Jewish leaders in New York. . . . [T]he meeting went well.

Not long after leaving the room, however, the sentiment, at least among some of the attendees, began to shift.

It did so because one of the first things Kerry did at the meeting was to blame his aides for the mention of Carter and Baker as possible envoys in his December speech [to the Council on Foreign Relations] . . .

The names, Kerry said, had been inserted by mistake, and he had even asked that they be removed.

The problem is, in the speech itself, Kerry said, "There are a number of uniquely qualified Americans among whom I would consider appointing, including President Carter. . . . And, I might add, I have had conversations with both President Clinton and President Carter about their willingness to do this."

Today, the campaign offers this explanation: The candidate eventually did speak with Carter -- but only after noticing that a draft of his speech said that he spoke with Carter. [Emphasis added -- JCI]

Well, nice try, Kerry campaign, but unfortunately today’s explanation doesn’t hold up either.

As we’ve covered before -- here, here, and here -- the "staff mistake" explanation was demonstrably wrong.

And so is the explanation that Kerry spoke with Carter "only after noticing that a draft of his speech said that he spoke with Carter."

The speech as prepared for delivery did not say he had spoken with Carter. Kerry ad-libbed that in the version he actually delivered. The transcript also included his subsequent Q&A session, in which he twice mentioned Carter again as his prospective envoy.

If the problem with the draft was he hadn’t spoken with Carter, he could have simply removed the reference to having spoken with Carter.

Instead, he did the opposite: his prepared speech did not refer to speaking with Carter; that detail was added by him extemporaneously -- to reinforce his proposal, by pointing out he had already spoken to Carter about accepting the appointment (which he said he would make "in the first days of a Kerry administration").

It would also be interesting to hear today’s explanation from the campaign of how the "aides" turned Kerry down when he "asked" that Carter’s name be removed from his speech ("Sorry John, the staff is hanging tough; they inserted Carter’s name in there, and they say it’s staying: your request was denied.”).

On a related (imo) note, Daniel Radosh has converted the 200-page folder of military records released by the Kerry campaign into a simple PowerPoint presentation. Worth viewing.

Admittedly, these stories lack the breathless intrigue of secret meetings in undisclosed locations with unnamed foreign leaders without leaving the U.S. ("Tim . . . I mean, you can go to New York and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader.").

But there is a pattern.