Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Witness For The Prosecution: UNSC 2334

A kind of debate with legal scholars who, in effect, are acting as the current Israeli government's defense attorneys.  It was sponsored by the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, which gave us, among others, Chief Justice John Roberts.  I did my best.

Link to the Podcast



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Too Early For The 2020 Ticket? Think Again.

It is hard not to compare Donald Trump’s chilling performance last Friday to Charles Schumer’s tepid one—the Big Lie countered by the half-truth, the worse-than-expected introduced by the better-than-nothing. Trump told the assembled, in effect, that the other political leaders on the stage with him were either ignoring, or profiteering from, middle America’s misery. Foreign governments were either ripping them off or riding for free. This day would be remembered for returning the government to the people. Trump alone was the people’s champion: their allegiance to America, thus to “solidarity,” should be “absolute”; he led, not a party, but “a movement.” America first, America’s new leader fighting (here comes the fascist’s pathos) with “every breath in my body.” Forget information provided by government officials; this was not to be trusted. The press was not to be trusted. The movement had its truth, the champion alone could be trusted.

Schumer, anticipating the message, was reassuring enough, tying together kinds of Americans like Mr. Rogers tying his sneakers: “Whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether we are immigrant or native-born, whether we live with disabilities or do not, in wealth or in poverty, we are all exceptional in our commonly held, yet fierce devotion to our country.” Notice that to live “in wealth or in poverty” meant living in just another demographic, something like sexual orientation, the leveling coming from “fierce” patriotic devotion. But the times are “tumultuous,” Schumer began, and so wealth creation “benefits too few.” For last-breath-in-my-body pathos, Schumer defaulted to a soldier who fell in the Civil War.

Perhaps I am being unkind. Schumer has been an effective Democratic politician and fund-raiser; people I know say he’s good company. But his conspicuousness at the Inauguration underlines something Democrats have not quite digested. Take it from someone who has lived through Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Shamir, Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu for two generations: ruthless leaders, carried to power by nationalist populism, cannot be satirized, fact-checked, op-eded, or demonstrated out of office. An opposition political party needs to defeat Trump—defeat his Republican toadies, his phony but dangerous “movement.” This means an opposition to which he can be invidiously compared—an alternative against which every Trump move looks pale, coarse, copycat.

The Democratic party, in other words, must have a clear message that speaks to the anxieties of the traditional Democratic voters it lost. And the message needs a tough, plausible messenger: a leader, or small number of united leaders, who embody—in their persons, their logic, their stories, and their demonstrated courage—integrity that advances what they are saying. If the message is right, and the messenger is authentic, you get a winning charisma. Schumer is not that messenger.

This may seem obvious, but it is worth saying why he is not. Rustbelt voters rejected Hillary Clinton because they resented, one, Wall Street, two, the entertainment industry, three, an Iraq war supported “on a bipartisan basis” (and where my kids go and your kids don’t), four, journalists and political consultants who seem condescendingly manipulative, and, five, the corrupting influence of big money in politics. Now think of Schumer. Does anybody seriously believe people who rejected Clinton think Schumer is more credible? What scorned box does he not check?

Read on at Talking Points Memo 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Is Donald Trump The Friend Israel Needs?

“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect.” Thus President-elect Donald J. Trump tweeted just before Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week. He added: “They used to have a great friend in the U.S., but …”

Mr. Trump was presuming to side with Israel in its regional fight, but … as Mr. Kerry implied, particularly when he spoke elegiacally of Shimon Peres, one cannot be a friend to Israel without actually being a friend to some Israelis over others, one conception of Israel, the region, and Jews, for that matter, over another. These are also Jewish culture wars — centered on Israel, but played out vicariously among American Jews — and Mr. Trump has stepped, or stumbled, into the thick of them. Nor do they affect Jews alone, given America’s web of relations in the region. One hopes and trusts that senior appointees to his foreign policy team will take notice.

Their job became more difficult last month when Mr. Trump’s transition team named David M. Friedman, his bankruptcy lawyer, as the next United States ambassador to Israel, soon after announcing an intention to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. Mr. Friedman, a major fund-raiser for the Beit El settlement built on the hills around the West Bank city of Ramallah, would doubtless feel at home in Jerusalem, where I live for half the year. The mental atmosphere of Greater Israel is nested here and in its encircling settlements.

By contrast, he would barely know what to make of Tel Aviv, where the embassy is now. That city is the heart of what could be called “Global Israel,” a Hebrew hub in a cosmopolitan system.

Read on at The New York Times