Media Alert [Updated]

I will be guest hosting the Laura Ingraham radio show both tomorrow and Thursday. The show airs from 9:00 a.m.-noon Eastern time. I am expecting a good lineup of guests for the two shows, including Jeff Sessions, John Thune, Marco Rubio, Steve Hayward, Stephen Hunter and Katie Kieffer. Please tune in if you can!

UPDATE: I have also added Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, to the lineup.

American Sniper on trial: The verdict

AmericanSniper I wrote about Jesse Ventura’s defamation claim against the estate of Chris Kyle in the post American Sniper on trial.” I attended closing arguments in the case in federal district court in St. Paul this past Tuesday morning and am disappointed to report that, after declaring itself deadlocked yesterday, the jury returned with a verdict in favor of Jesse Ventura against the estate of Chris Kyle this afternoon.

The 10-person jury was unable to reach unanimity. With the consent of the parties, the jury returned an 8-2 verdict. As it turned out the jury awarded $500,000 on Ventura’s defamation claim and $1.345 million on Ventura’s unjust enrichment claim.

The unjust enrichment claim was predicated on the assertion that Kyle had misappropriated Ventura’s name for the success of the book. I thought the claim was thin at best and in fact had a hard time suppressing a laugh when Ventura’s lawyer asked for $15 million, $10 million, or $5 million (in that order) on the claim in his closing.

Given my closeness to my old friend and colleague John Borger, who represented the Kyle estate, and my antipathy toward Ventura, I will leave this report without further comment except this link to Twitchy.

Hamas and the libertarians

The libertarian movement apparently is divided over Hamas and Israel. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, has made a libertarian case against Hamas. In essence, the case is this: Hamas stands behind an ideology which expressly seeks to deprive individuals of their rights.

As Walter Hudson puts it: “Islamic totalitarianism manifest in the entity of Hamas presents a common enemy to the United States and Israel. Neither nation can suffer a world where the mandates of Islamic totalitarianism are put into practice.”

The case seems self-evident from a libertarian perspective. Yet, says Hudson, many libertarians have responded to his argument by “defend[ing] Islam and Hamas while demonizing Israel.”

What accounts for this? Brook offers the following explanation:

I think that the libertarians who tend to be anti-Israel tend to be in the [Murray Rothbard wing] of the libertarian movement. They tend to be anarchists. They tend to have a deep rooted hatred of government. And it’s interesting [because] they tend to hate free governments more than they hate totalitarian governments. They tend to focus their hatred much more on the American government [and] on the Israeli government than they do on Hamas.

If you’re libertarian, that is if you claim to care about individual liberty, Hamas should be one of the top most hated regimes in the world. You should be celebrating that they are being destroyed and that the Palestinian people might have a chance to be freed from such a totalitarian evil regime like Hamas is.

And yet, libertarians don’t seem to care about the Hamas government, or actually support it, and they focus all their ire [and] all their hatred [and] all their focus on the Israeli government, a government that is in relative terms a rights respecting government, at least as rights respecting as any Western government. Essentially there’s free speech in Israel. There’s freedom of contract. There’s private property, not as much private property as those of us who believe in liberty would like, but much much better than 90% of the countries in the world.

All of what Brook says is true. But as an explanation of libertarian support for Hamas, it begs the question. Why would those who have a deep hatred of government be more supportive of a totalitarian regime than a democratic one?

Hudson offers a plausible, and rather elegant, explanation:

[I]t occurs to me that advocacy of anarchy requires one to minimize the legitimacy of foreign threats while demonizing any action which government takes to protect citizens. After all, if government can be seen acting properly in defense of liberty, that stands as evidence against anarchism. In this way, anarchists masquerading as libertarians have boxed themselves into a philosophical corner which requires them to become apologists for evil.

Probably so. But maybe some of these “anarchists masquerading as libertarians” aren’t boxed in by ideology. Maybe some of them simply hate Jews.

Who You Calling Extreme? [With Comments By John]

My old pal and occasional sparring partner Norm Ornstein and his trusty sidekick Tom Mann have been arguing for years now that our current political gridlock owes to the asymmetric extremism of Republicans.  And they have a chart to prove it!

Mannstein Chart 2 copy

This chart, based on an analysis of roll call votes in the House, supposedly shows that Republicans have become more conservative while liberals have only nudged a wee little bit.  QED.  Now, are roll call votes the best way of determining the ideological quotient of the two parties?  I expect I could easily construct a metric that would report the opposite results, because social science is wonderful.  (Start with things many Democrats once opposed—like unlimited abortion on demand or gay marriage—that are now articles of absolute faith.)  Or I could accept the Mannstein hypothesis in toto, and say, “it’s about time the GOP began taking an extreme stand about what’s happening in our government.”  Extremism in defense of liberty, baby!*

Or I can direct your attention to Doug Sosnik’s excellent feature that appeared in Politico magazine over the weekend, “Blue Crush: How the Left Took Over the Democratic Party.”  Sosnik was the political director of the Clinton White House, so this is no Tea Party agent provocateur sent from our side.  And he has charts of his own!  Drawn mostly from Pew surveys, they show the Democratic Party sliding sharply to the left.  Like this:

Sosnik 1 copy

Sosnik 2 copy

These charts make clear that the center of gravity in the Democratic Party has moved away from the relative moderation of the Clinton years.  Have the Republicans essentially changed from their views under Gingrich in the 1990s?  I doubt it.  The main difference is the rise of the Tea Party; partly because of the failures of the Gingrich-Bush II era, conservatives have taken to the streets, and this upsets liberals because only the left is supposed to get parade permits.

Sosnik thinks Democrats have many strengths at the moment, but ends his piece with this observation:

But the left nonetheless faces an important existential question in the years ahead: Yes, the Republican Party’s inability to adapt to America’s cultural shifts and demographic changes is creating an enormous opportunity for Democrats. However, in an age of political alienation where the majority of Americans lack faith in their institutions in general—and their federal government in particular—Democratic activists will need to reconcile the public’s desire for smaller government with their own progressive impulses.

That sounds like he actually thinks there’s trouble ahead for Dems.  I suspect he’s right.

* Or, as I put to Ornstein in one of our public debates a couple years ago:

So, to the question, “is the Republican party extreme”, I can only answer: I certainly hope so.  Let us recall that the Republican Party began its life as an “extremist” party, dedicated to the purpose of abolishing the twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery.  Barely within a year of its birth, the Supreme Court declared the Republican Party platform to be unconstitutional.  The Republican Party Mannstein wishes we had would have said, “Oh well, I guess we should accommodate ourselves to the status quo.”

Likewise today there is little reason or purpose for the Republican Party unless it acts with a new determination to call a decisive halt to the endless ratcheting expansion of centralized government power and reckless spending.

JOHN adds: I don’t think it is any surprise that in recent years, the Democratic Party has gotten more liberal, while the Republican Party has become more conservative. It is easy to forget that not too many years ago, “Republican” didn’t mean conservative, and “Democrat” didn’t mean liberal. Some of the most conservative people in Congress were Southern Democrats, while among the more liberal were a number of northern Republicans. What has happened is that the parties have finally broken free of Civil War-era alignments and have sorted themselves in a more nationally consistent manner. This change has had consequences, and one can argue that it has contributed to political polarization.

But it tells us little or nothing about whether conservative Republicans have gotten more conservative, or liberal Democrats have gotten more liberal. To analyze that, you would have to look at substantive policy positions that are now regarded as normal in each party, compared with 20 or 30 years ago. On that basis, it seems to me that today’s conservatives believe pretty much the same things as conservatives 30 years ago did–strong national defense, restraints on government spending and power, the rule of law under the Constitution, and so on. Maybe there are differences in degree on some issues, but they aren’t obvious to me. On the other hand, it seems clear that the left has drifted farther to the left. Positions that are common today–an open disavowal of concern about the national debt or the need for federal budgets, gay marriage, advocacy of American weakness abroad as a positive virtue, executive power to disregard federal statutes–would have been considered radical 30 years ago, to the extent they even existed.

What was Kerry doing?

David Harsanyi tries to account for John Kerry’s decision to hand Israel a proposed ceasefire agreement, driven by Qatar (Hamas’ sponsor) and Turkey, so favorable to Hamas that Israel was bound not only to reject it, but to take offense. This is what Kerry proposed:

• Rather than empowering Fatah, recognizing Hamas as the legitimate authority in the Gaza Strip, though it is considered a terrorist organization by the Justice Department and an entity that’s founding principle and driving purpose is to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state.

•Rather than choking off this organization’s lifeline, allowing them to collect billions in ‘charity’ that would be been able to use to rearm, retrench and reengage in hostilities.

•Making no demands on Hamas to get rid of its rockets, or its tunnels and other weaponry used to instigate war – while at the same it limiting Israel’s ability to take them out. (This final point is disputed by U.S. officials.)

What was Kerry doing?

David Ignatius, as to whom Scott has goods, believes that Kerry’s proposal was not the product of anti-Israel bias. Rather, it stemmed from his “bias in favor of an executable, short-term deal.”

This is absurd. There was never a chance that Kerry’s one-sided proposal would produce such a deal.

Harsanyi thus concludes that “we either have an incompetent Secretary of State or a momentous shift in Middle East policy.”

We do, indeed, have an incompetent Secretary of State. And under President Obama, our Middle East policy has shifted momentously.

But neither phenomenon seems sufficient to explain Kerry’s proposal. Incompetence is one thing; stupidity another. And the U.S. could have manifested its tilt away from Israel without presenting a proposal it knew would be rejected so emphatically.

My theory is that the Obama administration expected some within the Israeli government to go ballistic, and wanted that reaction.

Why would the American administration want to generate openly expressed outrage against its Secretary of State? To create leverage. Team Obama could respond to Israeli outrage with outrage of its own. Israel, fearing a deterioration in relations with its traditional ally, would then feel pressure to “make nice” by offering concessions.

We’ve seen a variation on this act before. In March 2010, during a visit to Israel by Joe Biden, the Interior Ministry announced plans to build new 1,600 apartment units in Ramat Schlomo.

The Obama administration hit the roof. Hillary Clinton, for example, chewed out Prime Minister Netayahu for 45 minutes and then ordered her PR department to boast to the press about it (Clinton would now like rewrite this history).

The result? Israel froze both the Ramat Schlomo building and other projects. The freeze lasted until, two and a half years later, the PA announced that it would attempt to gain observer status at the U.N.

The announcement of the construction plans during Biden’s visit was a gaffe. As for the U.S. reaction, one can debate whether it was proportionate to the Israeli offense.

For present purposes, the point is that the Obama administration learned that by taking offense at alleged disrespect for its leading players, it can influence Israeli policy.

This, I suspect, is why Kerry proffered a ceasefire proposal that he (or someone smarter) knew would produce a show of disrespect for our foghorn Secretary of State.

But building housing units lacks the urgency of degrading Hamas’ ability to attack Israel. One hopes, therefore, that the Obama administration’s ginned up outrage will have no discernible effect on Israeli policy in Gaza.

The case of David Ignatius, cont’d

David Ignatius is the prominent Washington Post columnist who specializes in foreign affairs. He writes highly regarded espionage novels in his spare time. His column “John Kerry’s big blunder” leads the honor roll at RealClearPolitics this morning.

I find Ignatius to be a vile columnist and, if his humanity is reflected in his journalism, a vile human being. In the course of his column this morning, he can’t help himself. He cannot refrain from asserting:

Israel has undermined its own cause with statements that appear to be insensitive to Palestinian loss of life. One example is Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer’s claim that “the Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize” for showing “unimaginable restraint,” at a time when photos and videos provide wrenching evidence of civilian casualties in the densely packed cities of Gaza.

I don’t find anything wrong with Dermer’s comment and Ignatius conveniently avoids arguing his point. Knowledge of the underlying facts seems to me to render Ignatius’s point a non sequitur. Nevertheless, he relies on the columnist’s privilege of bare assertion.

The Middle East brings out the worst in Ignatius. Let’s take another look back at Ignatius’s record, as I have done a few times before.

In 2012 Ignatius chatted up Turkey’s Prime Minister raving anti-Semitic Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and produced an obsequious column. Over at NRO, in an understated and humane critique of Ignatius’s column, Elliott Abrams filled in the blanks. The context was beyond the scope of Abrams’s critique, but it is worth noting.

Ignatius is full of good feeling toward some of the world’s foremost terrorists, tyrants, and malefactors. In September 2003, for example, Ignatius got together for a little chat with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Ignatius’s subsequent column on the interview maddeningly refers to the Hezbollah war of extermination against Israel as “the horrifying dance of death between Israel and its enemies[.]”

He asked: “Are there terms under which Islamic militants might agree to halt their suicide bombings?” The answer was negative, which should suggest even to a moderately intelligent observer that Israel was not exactly engaged in a war of choice — contrary to Ignatius’s metaphor — with Nasrallah and his followers.

Ignatius had been invited to attend and speak at a Hezbollah jamboree. His speaking engagement led to his interview with Nasrallah. If you were invited to speak to a conference of genocidal murderers, what would you do? Ignatius appears not to have agonized much over that particular question.

In his column “Hezbollah’s success,” Ignatius resolved the question in favor of taking advantage of the opportunity to speak to Hezbollah. Invited to speak to the group in Beirut on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he “accepted — on the theory that it was a chance to learn about the group and that more information, even about alleged terrorists, is better than less.”

It isn’t clear to me why Ignatius referred to Hezbollah as “alleged terrorists.” Was it so that he could observe terminological neutrality between murderers and their victims? Because he has some doubt whether Hezbollah is a terrorist organization? Because identifying an organization as terrorist is uncomfortably judgmental? The rest of Ignatius’s column showed Hezbollah to be a cold-blooded advocate of terrorism — “‘martyrdom operations,’ as Hezbollah prefers to call them” — and Ignatius knows that the group practices what it preaches.

For a 2008 column, Ignatius got together for a chat in Damascus with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Paul Mirengoff picked apart Ignatius’s advocacy of Assad as America’s partner in a post that hasn’t made the transition to our redesigned site and that doesn’t seem to be accessible online at this point. Paul demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt at the time that the superficial sophistication of Ignatius’s promotion of Assad was in fact a form of naivete or wishful thinking. Recent events have only put an exclamation point on the stupidity of Ignatius’s wishful thinking.

Paul also characterized Assad as an “evil tyrant.” Paul’s judgment reflects a universe of discourse that is foreign to Ignatius, at least insofar as his view of the Arab or Islamic world is concerned. Ignatius did not pass judgment on Assad’s actions, but rather on Assad’s moods.

In 2003, Ignatius found Assad tense over the prospect of America’s looming war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. By contrast, in 2008, Ignatius found Assad relaxed and full of fun, no longer worried about the threat American involvement in the region might pose to his regime:

Assad spoke in English during the 30-minute interview Monday. He was accompanied only by his political and media adviser Bouthaina Shaaban. This time, in contrast to my interview with him in 2003, when Assad was often stiff and doctrinaire, he was loose and informal, breaking several times into laughter.

Assad’s easy demeanor suggested that he’s more firmly in charge now. The Bush administration’s attempt to isolate Syria has failed, even in the judgment of senior White House officials. That leaves Assad in the catbird seat, courted by European and Arab nations and conducting back-channel talks through Turkey with his erstwhile enemy Israel.

Asked, for example, about reports that Saudi Arabia is seeking to improve its relations with Damascus because it sees U.S. engagement with Syria ahead and fears that “the train may be leaving the station,” Assad laughed.

“Maybe it has already left the station,” he said. But he vows that he is ready to receive any emissaries. “I have no problem with the Saudis. We would like good relations with every country in this region.”

That Assad, what a card.

At the end of his column, Ignatius referred to the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri. Ignatius didn’t appear to have troubled Assad with any questions on that topic:

An international tribunal is scheduled to meet in The Hague to weigh Syria’s alleged role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. But in the meantime, Assad is receiving a stream of visiting diplomats. He looks like a ready partner for Obama’s diplomacy, but a cautious one — waiting to see what’s on offer before he shows more of his hand.

Knowledgeable observers believe that the trail of evidence from Hariri’s murder leads to Assad’s regime. See, for example, Joshua Hammer’s December 2008 Atlantic Monthly article on the investigation of Hariri’s murder.

Ignatius had no comment on Hariri’s murder or its meaning. Instead, he served up Assad as America’s willing Middle East partner — if only the Obama administration had the sagacity to accept Assad’s outstretched hand. It strikes me that there is something chilling about the case of David Ignatius.

Reporting live from Gaza, suppressed and deleted

Hamas threats don’t account for the relentless ignorance and stupidity of the coverage of the Gaza hostilities, but they account for some of it. Reporters and their media employers cooperate with Hamas not only in suppressing stories that do not serve Hamas’s purposes, but also by failing to report on the restrictive conditions under which they are working.

By email alert disseminated last night CAMERA alerts us to two examples deriving from Wall Street Journal reporters. This week Wall Street Journal reporters posted on Twitter statements and photos implicating Hamas, but then quickly deleted their tweets. CAMERA notes in the message: “Editors have not responded to repeated inquiries asking why and at whose request tweets are apparently being censored.”

The first deleted tweet, posted by Wall Street Journal Middle East correspondent Nick Casey on July 21 (below, noted here yesterday), referred in passing to Hamas’s use of the Shifa Hospital in Gaza as a shield against Israeli attack. The Algemeiner performed the service of running the photograph below with the informative caption: “Nick Casey, The Wall Street Journal’s Middle East Correspondent, posted a photo to Twitter of a Hamas spokesman being interviewed on camera at Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, which Hamas uses as a base. The photo has since been removed. Photo: Nick Casey / Twitter.”

wsj-hamas-300x300

Now why might that be?

A second deleted tweet, posted yesterday by the Journal’s Tamer El-Ghobashy, suggested
Hamas was likely responsible for a strike that hit the Shifa Hospital (screenshot below). El-Ghobasty observed: “Low level damage suggest [sic] Hamas misfire.” The tweet was later replaced by one in which El-Ghobasty refrained from mentioning Hamas.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 7.07.31 AM

Now why might that be?

CAMERA comments:

The Wall Street Journal’s credibility hinges on it being transparent about what information is being withheld from readers, and why. If information that casts Hamas in a negative light is being censored for the safety of journalists…then readers must be informed that they are only getting a partial story. If readers aren’t informed, or if such information is being deleted for any other reason, the newspaper does not deserve to be seen as credible.

CAMERA’s observation applies, of course, not just specifically to the Journal, but generally to the media reporting from Gaza. The Times of Israel reports on the phenomenon in the story “Hamas threatening journalists in Gaza who expose abuse of civilians.”

Khaled Abu Toameh may be the bravest journalist I have ever met. He puts what is going on here this way in his excellent Gatestone column, and he has the standing to make the point stick: “Journalists who are afraid to report the truth should not be covering a conflict like the Israeli-Arab one. They should go back to their editors and demand that they be reassigned to cover sports or the environment. As long as such journalists continue to operate in the region, Hamas will feel safe to bomb as many mosques as it wants and to kill as many Palestinians as it wants.”