Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cut Egypt Off. By Joseph Raskas.

Cut Egypt Off. By Joseph Raskas. National Review Online, February 7, 2013.

Why Is Obama Arming Enemies? By Michael Rubin. Commentary, February 5, 2013.


Since 1979, when Egypt struck a peace treaty with Israel following the Camp David accords, the U.S. has provided Egypt with approximately $2 billion of foreign assistance each year. This aid was purposed to promote short-term U.S. interests, such as regional stability, and long-term goals, such as promoting human rights and democracy in Egypt.

During the Mubarak era, this aid included up to $1.3 billion in military assistance each year, and copious amounts of economic aid. In the wake of Mubarak’s ouster and the subsequent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country, Congress passed legislation that prevents the Obama administration from distributing military aid to Egypt unless the State Department can independently verify that Egypt is taking concrete steps toward democracy. Their definition of such steps: Egypt must abide by its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, support “the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections,” and enact policies that protect “freedom of speech, association and religion and due process of law.” However, according to a senior Obama-administration official, there is no way to certify that all conditions are being met, so they’ve been ignored.

Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, has turned Egypt into a bastion of authoritarian rule. Since his rise to power last June, Morsi has orchestrated a constitution based on sharia law, usurped the supreme court’s constitutional power of judicial review, silenced media critics, and allegedly ordered both the killing and jailing of political dissidents. Moreover, Morsi has incited hatred toward Egypt’s Coptic minority, expressed doubt about maintaining the peace treaty with Israel, supported terrorist organizations such as Hamas, and pledged to work for the release of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, a militant Islamist preacher imprisoned by the U.S. for planning the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. When Morsi was exposed by the Middle East Media Research Institute for calling Jewish people “descendants of apes and pigs,” Morsi’s response was farcical: My words, he said, were distorted by the Jews who control the American media.

Meanwhile, Egypt is teetering on the brink of financial collapse. In the fall of 2012, President Obama informed Congress that the U.S. would provide Egypt with $450 million in immediate aid to stave off a fiscal disaster. Senator John McCain noted that a delay in foreign aid was liable to “contribute to the chaos that may ensue because of their collapsing economy.” But financial woes make Morsi susceptible to American demands, so President Obama should use Egypt’s desperate situation as leverage to insist on true democratic reforms.

Congress should implement legislation that makes economic aid to Egypt’s new government contingent upon the precise conditions it previously applied to military aid — abiding by the peace treaty with Israel and supporting policies that promote democracy and human rights. Absent these changes and independent confirmation of them by the State Department, economic aid should be withdrawn.

Military aid should also be rescinded until the conditions already set out by Congress have been met. President Obama recently promised to send 16 F-16 fighter jets and 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks to Egypt before the end of the year. This harms U.S. interests rather than advancing them — Morsi is likely to point the F-16s toward Israel and the Abrams tanks toward Tahrir Square.

The American people certainly support rethinking our relationship with Egypt. According to a poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, 42 percent of Americans think aid to Egypt should be reduced and 29 percent think it should be cut off entirely. A super-majority of Americans — 71 percent — believe that U.S. foreign aid to Egypt is a flawed policy prescription.

The Egyptian people, too, reject the notion of being dependent upon American aid. Indeed, according to a Gallup poll, more than eight out of ten Egyptians oppose receiving foreign aid from the United States.

On Tuesday, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt, marking the first visit by an Iranian leader in more than three decades. A red-carpet welcome would have been unthinkable under Mubarak.

The U.S. seeks a democratic Egypt, a country that is a bulwark of peace and stability in the region. Until Cairo supports these vital American interests, it is morally irresponsible to use U.S. taxpayer money to fund or arm the Egyptian government.

The Demonization of the Iraq War Ensures No Syria Intervention. By Jim Geraghty.

The Demonization of the Iraq War Ensures No Syria Intervention. By Jim Geraghty. National Review Online, February 7, 2013.

Intervene in Syria. By Roger Cohen. New York Times, February 4, 2013.

Syria Is Not Iraq. By Shadi Hamid. The Atlantic, February 4, 2013.


Lastly, it is worth thinking about what this means for future instances of mass slaughter. With the Libya intervention, there was hope that a post-Arab Spring precedent would be set – that whenever pro-democracy protesters were threatened with massacre, the U.S. and its allies would take the “responsibility to protect” seriously and consider intervention as a legitimate option. But, nearly two years later, what we didn’t do in Syria is more relevant than what we did do in Libya.

If I sound defeatist, then it is likely because I am. It is worth speaking frankly, and, unfortunately, this probably requires speaking in the past tense. For Syria, it is likely too late. Notwithstanding something sudden and entirely unexpected, the international community will not intervene. That does not mean that the Syrian people are doomed. They will likely “win” in the end, but their victory, if we can even call it that, will have come at a much greater cost – in the sheer number killed – than was necessary. It will have come at the cost of a country destroyed, of sects polarized beyond any hope of reconciliation, of Salafis and Jihadists ascendant, of a state too torn and divided for real governance. As has been reported elsewhere, the Syrian opposition feels that it has been not just forgotten, but, worse, betrayed. They are unlikely to forget this anytime soon. Anti-Americanism, a given among regime supporters, has slowly taken root among the opposition as well. The Syrian protest movement’s Friday theme for October 19, 2012 was “America, has your spite not been sated by our blood?” In due time, the Obama administration's inability or unwillingness to act may be remembered as one of the great strategic and moral blunders of recent decades. Hoping to atone for our sins in Iraq, we have overlearned the lessons of the last war. I only wish it wasn’t too late.

Movement Conservatives and Tea Partiers Rise Up Against Rove. By Garance Franke-Ruta.

Movement Conservatives and Tea Partiers Rise Up Against Rove. By Garance Franke-Ruta. The Atlantic, February 7, 2013.

Suspected L.A. Cop Killer Christopher Dorner Posted Pro-Obama, Pro-Gun Control, Leftist Rant on the Web.

Suspected L.A. Cop Killer Christopher Dorner Posted Pro-Obama, Pro-Gun Control, Leftist Rant on the Web. By Bryan Preston. PJ Media, February 7, 2013.

Suspected Mass-Murderer’s Manifesto Endorses Hillary, Obama, Gun Control, Elite Media. By John Nolte. Breitbart, February 7, 2013.

News Media Scrub Cop Murderer’s Manifesto of Pro-Obama, Hillary, MSNBC, CNN, Gay, and Anti-Gun Comments. SooperMexican, February 7, 2013.

Christopher Dorner’s Manifesto. Crime, Guns and Videotape, February 6, 2013.

A New GOP? Not Yet. By Michael Tomasky.

A New GOP? Not Yet. By Michael Tomasky. The Daily Beast, February 7, 2013.


The Rove–Tea Party feud is a joyous thing to watch. Rove, after an utterly disastrous run around the track in 2012, is now suckering people into writing him checks for a new outfit that will allegedly hold the zanies at bay, filter out the Sharron Angles and Richard Mourdocks of the world, and promote electable conservatives.

First of all, I hardly have the words to describe how happy this makes me, after decades of watching conservatives chortle about unelectable Democrats. And second and more to the point, rather than freezing out challengers from the far, far right as intended, this seems almost certain to invite them. There’s nothing those people love more than the idea that everyone, even their own party’s establishment, is against them. And conservative voters will vote for that.

This is the Republican problem. The basic organizing principle of Republican campaigns for 40 years now has been: they are coming. They’ve mixed in a little positive stuff. Ronald Reagan did that well, Bush Sr. had his thousand points of light, Bush Jr. his ownership society. But fundamentally Republicans have won elections by telling the white majority that “they” are coming after your money and status and privilege. I was surprised to read in Tom Edsall’s latest column, although I should not have been, that the GOP has won the white vote in every election except one going back not to 1980 or 1968, but 1952 (the exception was LBJ’s ’64 landslide).

Now, Cantor, Rove, and Rubio—sweet reason itself on immigration, or so he tries to be—are signaling in their different ways that it’s time to stop playing resentment politics. But they have a base that’s seething with resentments, resentments they themselves, Rove in particular, built and nursed going back to Goldwater’s time. You can’t just undo something like that in one election cycle.

What’s coming, therefore, seems pretty obvious. A grand civil war between the rebranders and the dead-enders. The latter will run candidates against the former for Senate and House races in 2014. Those outcomes will be pivotal in setting a tone for 2016. If the rebranders win a majority of races, including the two or three the media eventually identify as somehow symbolic, then maybe they will have the momentum heading into the presidential election and will be able to get the party to coalesce around an electable candidate. (By the way: If this is supposed to be Rubio, let us pause briefly and note that Rubio is on most issues a far-right-wing politician and is almost surely unelectable, provided the Democratic campaign isn’t completely idiotic. If it’s supposed to be Chris Christie, that’s perhaps—perhaps—another matter.)

But if the dead-enders prevail, or pull a draw?

I think the Republican Party right now is like an alcoholic who hasn’t yet hit rock bottom. He’s not fooling anyone anymore. Everyone’s on to him. But he’s still holding on to his job by a thread, his wife hasn’t yet taken the kids and walked out on him, the cops don’t happen yet to have been there as he swerved his way home from his usual bar. He can still, in other words, kid himself. Disaster hasn’t struck yet.

In this case, disaster would be losing to Hillary Clinton three years from now. I believe that’s what it will probably take to sober the Republicans up; most especially to sober up the base—to make rank-and-file conservatives realize that the age of victory via resentment is gone. That middle Americans who once identified with their grudges are now over them and sick to death of hearing about them. Cosmetic rebranding can’t fix this.

The Persistence of Racial Resentment. By Thomas B. Edsall. New York Times, February 6, 2013.


What are we to make of these developments? Is the country more or less racist? How can the percentage of people holding anti-black attitudes have increased from 2006 to 2008 at a time when Obama performed better among white voters than the two previous white Democratic nominees, and then again from 2008 to 2012 when Obama won a second term?

In fact, the shifts described by Tesler and Pasek are an integral aspect of the intensifying conservatism within the right wing of the Republican Party. Many voters voicing stronger anti-black affect were already Republican. Thus, in 2012, shifts in their attitudes, while they contributed to a 4 percentage point reduction in Obama’s white support, did not result in a Romney victory.

Some Republican strategists believe the party’s deepening conservatism is scaring away voters.

“We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party,” John Weaver, a consultant to the 2008 McCain campaign, said after Obama’s re-election. Mark McKinnon, an adviser to former President George W. Bush, made a similar point: “The party needs more tolerance, more diversity and a deeper appreciation for the concerns of the middle class.”

Not only is the right risking marginalization as its views on race have become more extreme, it is veering out of the mainstream on contraception and abortion, positions that fueled an 11 point gender gap in 2012 and a 13 point gap in 2008.

Given that a majority of the electorate will remain white for a number of years, the hurdle that the Republican Party faces is building the party’s white margins by 2 to 3 points. For Romney to have won, he needed 62 percent of the white vote, not the 59 percent he got.

Working directly against this goal is what Time Magazine recently described as the Republican “brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others.”

It is not so much Latino and black voters that the Republican Party needs. To win the White House again, it must assuage the social conscience of mainstream, moderate white voters among whom an ethos of tolerance has become normal. These voters are concerned with fairness and diversity, even as they stand to the right of center. It is there that the upcoming political battles - on the gamut of issues from race to rights - will be fought.

Does the GOP Really Want to Woo Blacks and Latinos? By Touré. Time, January 31, 2013.


A large part of the problem the GOP has with voters of color is the brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others. When those people are some of the loudest voices in your party, then most black and brown people are going to be repelled and feel unwelcome. The GOP needs louder voices — leadership voices — speaking back and saying, “No, that’s not who we are (anymore).” Donald Trump is a prominent Republican who pushed the birther cause years into Obama’s presidency. There must be prominent Republicans who loudly push back and say, “We disagree with the president, but are certain that he’s legitimately American.” Otherwise potential voters don’t know whether the party condones racist behavior.

The party also needs to change the rhetoric of their elected officials and surrogates to not be racially toxic, baiting and dog whistle-ish. This week the GOP was told by the Hispanic outreach arm of a GOP SuperPAC to avoid pejoratives like illegal, alien, anchor baby and electric fence. To that I’d add: food stamp president, lazy, un-American, handout, takers, democratic plantation and other obviously loaded terms that show a blatant lack of respect for black and brown people. It’s hard to consider the policies of a party whose members use inflammatory language about you. Also: avoid at all cost having panels about how to successfully communicate with black and brown people in rooms named “Burwell Plantation,” which is named for a slave-owning family. That actually happened at a recent House GOP retreat. How is it possible that no one thought that might leave a bad taste in the mouths of the people you’re talking about reaching?

The GOP could also refresh some of its messaging for black and brown people. For example, their gun rights position could be tailored to black and brown people — many of whom live in neighborhoods where crime is not unexpected. Something like “you need to protect yourself, the cops can’t always be there for you, and we’re the party fighting to continue your right to protect yourself” could work. An ad saying, “What if Trayvon had a gun?” could be persuasive. I personally think more guns leads to more bloodshed, and if Trayvon had had a gun, he’d either be dead or on trial for murder. I believe guns provide the illusion of security, not true security, but the GOP disagrees and some black and brown Americans could be persuaded to see it their way.

But there will have to be some policy changes, too. Voter ID laws seem very much designed to functionally disenfranchise black and brown voters (as well as other traditional democratic voters). Harsh anti-immigration laws like Arizona’s S.B. 1070, a.k.a. “Papers Please,” stigmatizes the Latino community, leaves them targeted as enemies and makes it hard for them to seriously consider the GOP. Stand Your Ground is also a problematic law that many black and brown people see as set in place to aid whites in protecting themselves from blacks. You can argue the specific merits of these laws if you like, but you’ll struggle to get black and brown people to not see them as an assault.

It also may be time to take a hard look at entitlement reform. It’s in vogue in D.C., but Medicare and Medicaid are popular with all Americans, including black and brown people who hear themselves demonized in the debate. They hear that the Democratic Party will be there in a time of need, while the Republicans will demand you pull yourself up by your bootstraps in a world marked by white privilege, where for many people race is a difficult hurdle to get over. They hear that if the world is divided into makers and takers then a dollar given in welfare is given to a lazy person of color and taken from a hard-working white person. This thinking is corrosive to the Republican Party.

These ideas may not be easy to adopt because the policies I suggest they leave behind speak to white anxiety and give whites, especially in the working class, a sense that the Republican Party is there to protect them, while the Dems are going to protect the racial other. Stoking fear of that other is baked into their appeal to a key part of their constituency, and has become part of the soul of the party. They’re going to need to extract that before they can begin an honest conversation about wooing voters of color. All that’s at stake is getting back in the White House.

India vs. China vs. Egypt. By Thomas L. Friedman.

India vs. China vs. Egypt. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, February 5, 2013.

Nixon in China: An Opera From 1987.

Nixon shakes hands with Zhou Enlai, February 21, 1972. During the Geneva Conference in 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles refused to shake Zhou Enlai’s hand. Knowing of this rebuff, President Nixon made a point of shaking Zhou Enlai’s hand upon landing in China. White House photo by Byron Schumaker. Wikipedia.

Nixon in China. Houston Grand Opera, October 22, 1987. Music by John Adams. Libretto by Alice Goodman. Directed by Peter Sellars. Complete Opera. Video in 17 parts, January 26, 2010. YouTube. Libretto.

Act 1, Scene 2: Meeting with Mao. Video with historical footage, September 3, 2012. YouTube.