American Jewish Committee – Anti-Semitism – New York Times

The American Jewish Committee, an ardent defender of Israel, is known for speaking out against anti-Semitism, but this conservative advocacy group has recently stirred up a bitter and emotional debate with a new target: liberal Jews.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/arts/31jews.html?ex=1327899600&en=66861232e53ab847&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

OpinionJournal – Best of the Web Today – January 31, 2007

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Best of the Web Today – January 31, 2007

    By JAMES TARANTO

    Today’s Video on WSJ.com: James Taranto takes Hillary Clinton to task for her demand that President Bush bring all U.S. forces home from Iraq before leaving office.

    The Great Black Hope
    Slate’s Tim Noah has begun a new feature, “the Obama Messiah Watch, which will periodically highlight gratuitously adoring biographical details that appear in newspaper, television, and magazine profiles of this otherworldly presence in our midst.” The first example is a Los Angeles Times piece in which Barack Obama is praised for, of all things, his note-taking ability:

    In [political science professor Roger] Boesche’s European politics class, [classmate Ken] Sulzer said he was impressed at how few notes [italics mine] Obama took. “Where I had five pages, Barry had probably a paragraph of the pithiest, tightest prose you’d ever see. . . . It was very short, very sweet. Obviously somebody almost Clintonesque in being able to sum a whole lot of concepts and place them into a succinct written style.”

    Blogress Ann Althouse doesn’t find this entirely funny:

    “The Obama Messiah Watch” is ostensibly a fun little feature, highlighting the foibles of people who just love Obama so much. But what Noah fails to talk about is the likelihood that he’s picking up evidence of racism. What accounts for amazement to the point of adoration at the fact that a man possesses excellent skill at something like note taking? Is it not that he can do it and he’s black? You can laugh at Noah’s nuggets of gratuitous adoration, but you ought also to look at them critically and think about the implications.

    Then along comes presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has this to say in a New York Observer interview:

    “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

    Biden actually says this as a prelude to stating his skepticism about “a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate,” which is an entirely reasonable point, and not patronizing at all. But “articulate and bright and clean”? Calling a black person articulate is supposed to be invidious because it suggests that most black people have trouble expressing themselves. By this logic, what would it mean to call a black man clean?

    Biden’s comment makes two things clear: Althouse is on to something, and the 44th president will not be a loquacious Delaware senator named Joe Biden.

    Another Botched Joke?
    “Biden to Make It Official on Comedy Central”–headline, News Journal (Wilmington, Del.), Jan. 31

    Obama’s ‘Racial Obsessions’
    In a not especially adoring piece for the Examiner, a multicity daily newspaper, Bill Sammon reports that Barack Obama “has spent much of his life anguishing over his mixed-race heritage”–his mother is white, his father was a black African–“and self-described ‘racial obsessions.’ ” In an article that draws heavily from Obama’s 1995 memoir “Dreams From My Father,” perhaps the most telling observation is this:

    Obama wrote that in high school, he and a black friend would sometimes speak disparagingly “about white folks this or white folks that, and I would suddenly remember my mother’s smile, and the words that I spoke would seem awkward and false.”

    As a result, he concluded that “certain whites could be excluded from the general category of our distrust.”

    It’s often an interesting exercise, when hearing about something like this, to imagine what it would mean if the races were reversed. Suppose a white politician described sitting around in high school with a white friend talking disparagingly about “black folks this or black folks that,” then coming to the realization that “certain blacks could be excluded from the general category.”

    Of course it is not quite the same thing, and Sammon quotes a political operative who is black who helps explain why:

    Donna Brazile, who managed former Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000, said Obama’s feelings of distrust toward most whites and doubts about himself are fairly typical for black Americans.

    “He was a young man trying to discover, trying to accept, trying to come to grips with his background,” she explained. “In the process, he had to really make some statements that are hurtful, maybe. But I think they’re more insightful than anything.”

    Such an explanation simply wouldn’t make sense if the races were reversed. “Feelings of distrust” toward blacks and “doubts” about themselves are not “typical” for white Americans, who seldom have occasion to think about race.

    A passage on Obama’s college days illustrates the point further:

    “There were enough of us on campus to constitute a tribe, and when it came to hanging out many of us chose to function like a tribe, staying close together, traveling in packs,” he wrote. “It remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.”

    By contrast, if white students at the typical college hang out mostly with other whites, it isn’t because of tribalism. It’s just that most of the other students are white, the blacks are mostly off “staying close together, traveling in packs,” as Obama put it.

    Such tribalism can be found in Congress, too–not in the Senate, where Obama is the only black member, but in the House. Last year Stephen Cohen, who is white, won election to an open congressional seat from Tennessee. Cohen’s predecessor, Harold Ford Jr., was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. During his campaign, Cohen promised to seek membership in the caucus, the better to represent his majority-black constitutents.

    The CBC said no dice, as the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby writes:

    “Mr. Cohen asked for admission and he got his answer,” said Representative William Clay Jr. of Missouri. “It’s an unwritten rule. It’s understood. It’s clear.” To make sure of that, Clay’s father–former representative William Clay Sr., a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus–had distributed a memo declaring it “critical” that the CBC “membership remain exclusively African-American.” . . .

    The Congressional Black Caucus was formed 38 years ago to do what all congressional caucuses do: bring together members who share certain interests in pursuit of common legislative goals. Its “core mission,” says the CBC, “has been to close . . . disparities that exist between African-Americans and white Americans in every aspect of life.”

    It strikes us that the biggest disparity between black and white Americans may be precisely that racial identity is so important for many blacks and so unimportant for almost all whites. That this is so is understandable for reasons of history and demography. But the CBC’s insistence on remaining exclusively black is in direct conflict with its professed goal of closing disparities between blacks and whites.

    Some Opinions Are More Personal Than Others
    Yesterday we noted that New York Times reporter Michael Gordon had come in for a public chiding from both ombudsman Byron Calame and Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman for expressing his personal opinion that the new American strategy in Iraq has a chance of success and that success would be a good thing.

    A reader reminded us of Times reporter Linda Greenhouse’s speech at Harvard last June, which was highly politically charged, and which we noted in July. This speech was the subject of an October Calame column, in which the ombudsman chided the reporter but the editors demurred:

    The government, Ms. Greenhouse said on the NPR audio version of her speech, “had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, other places around the world, the U.S. Congress, whatever. And let’s not forget the sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.” She later added, “I feel a growing obligation to reach out across the ridiculous actual barrier that we seem about to build on the Mexican border. . . .”

    The Times’s ethical guideline states that news staffers appearing on radio or television “should avoid expressing views that go beyond what they would be allowed to say in the paper.” It is obvious, I think, that the guideline also applies to other venues. And Bill Keller, the executive editor, made clear in an e-mail message to me that the standard applies to all Times journalists “when they speak in public.”

    It seems clear to me that Ms. Greenhouse stepped across that line during her speech. Times news articles are not supposed to contain opinion. A news article containing the phrase “the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism” would get into the paper only as a direct quote from a source. The same would go for any news article reference to “the ridiculous actual barrier” on the Mexican border.

    The reaction of The Times has been muted so far, however. Mr. Keller acknowledged in his e-mail to me that he has talked to Ms. Greenhouse about her remarks, but would not disclose what he said or whether her role would change.

    Even more astonishing, “Ms. Greenhouse told me she considers her remarks at Harvard to be ‘statements of fact’–not opinion–that would be allowed to appear in a Times news article.”

    Even we aren’t sure the Times is quite that far gone, but it is telling that its editors are more uncomfortable with hoping that their own country wins a war than with Greenhouse’s firey left-liberal opinions.

    ‘Do or Do Not. There Is No Try’
    “Palestinian Factions Try to Observe New Truce” reads a New York Times headline: “After five days of clashes in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian factions today mostly observed the latest cease-fire, although one Hamas member was shot dead.”

    Suppose the story had been that Israel and the Palestinians had called a truce, but Israel had shot one Palestinian dead. Can you imagine the Times headlining it “Israel Tries to Observe New Truce”? The paper treats the Palestinians like children; it gives them credit for trying.

    We Hope He Got Caught on the Thorns
    “Hezbollah Leader Nasrallah Attacks Bush”–headline, Reuters, Jan. 30

    To Take This Test, You Have to Pass
    “Teens who drink alcohol could be caught three days later under a high school’s new testing policy for students,” the Associated Press reports from Pequannock, N.J.:

    The test, which will be given randomly to students at Pequannock Township High School, can detect whether alcohol was consumed up to 80 hours earlier. . . .

    Pequannock Superintendent Larrie Reynolds said the policy approved last week should be a deterrent to students who feel peer pressure to drink.

    Under the program, students who test positive will not be kicked off teams or barred from extracurricular activities, Reynolds said. Instead, they will receive counseling–and their parents will be notified.

    This strikes us as overly intrusive, but we had to laugh at the quote from the ACLU’s Deborah Jacobs: “Medical care and treatment are issues between parents and children.”

    Does that include contraception and abortion?

    It Still Looks Like ‘Miasma’ to Us
    Our item yesterday on “mamisma” prompted a lesson in Spanish syntax from reader Ramon Martinez:

    The word machismo is derived from macho (male). The opposite of macho is hembra (female), therefore, the opposite of machismo is hembrismo, not “mamisma.”

    Mamisma, which has to do with mamá (mother, and the accent in the last a is very very important) is wrong. It should be mamismo. The opposite of mamismo is papismo from papá.

    It turns out that mamisma is actually of Italian origin, as the Austin Chronicle‘s Mr. Smarty Pants reported in 2001: “More than three in four Italian men older than the age of 30 live at home with their parents. This practice is dubbed ‘mamisma.’ “

    Bad News for Younger People
    “Older People Take Bad News in Their Stride: Study”–headline, Reuters, Jan. 30

    Talking Ourselves to Death, or How to Combat a Silent Killer
    “Groups Push for Dialogue in Killing”–headline, Detroit News, Jan. 31

    ‘For One Thing, the Postage Costs a Bundle’
    “Fla. Man Warns About Mail-Order Brides”–headline,

    It Must Be Homecoming
    “States Revisiting Electoral College”–headline, Washington Times, Jan. 31

    Have They Tried Going to the Dentist?
    “Ethics Watchdogs Looking for Teeth”–headline, Washington Times, Jan. 31

    Most Obscure Poll Result Ever
    “One of Three Pregnant Teens Sought in Frying Pan Attack Surrenders in Utah”–headline, FoxNews.com, Jan. 30

    The Adding Machine Is Mightier Than the Uru Hammer
    “Thor Probes Accounting Issues”–headline, CFO.com, Jan. 31

    News You Can Use

    • “Do Your Homework Before You Travel to Foreign Countries”–headline, Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.), Jan. 31
    • “Sweet Road Grit Is a Feast for Sheep”–headline, ICWales.co.uk, Jan. 31
    • “Australia Temperatures to Soar in 65 Years”–headline, Associated Press, Jan. 31

    Bottom Stories of the Day

    • “Doughnut Shop Worker Eyes Political Office”–headline, Times Union (Albany, N.Y.), Jan. 31
    • “Wis. Teen Says Bedroom Wasn’t Locked”–headline, Associated Press, Jan. 30
    • “Miss Louisiana ‘at Peace’ After Pageant Disappointment”–headline, Associated Press, Jan. 31

    One Day It Will Be a Beautiful Butterfly
    Newsweek’s Holly Bailey reports on an episode involving the president yesterday:

    Does President Bush have it in for the press corps? Touring a Caterpillar factory in Peoria, Ill., the Commander in Chief got behind the wheel of a giant tractor and played chicken with a few wayward reporters. . . .

    “I would suggest moving back,” Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor. “I’m about to crank this sucker up.” As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety.

    “Get out of the way!” a news photographer yelled. “I think he might run us over!” said another. White House aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor’s window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned.

    The episode lasted about a minute, and Bush was still laughing when he pulled to a stop. He gave reporters a thumbs-up. “If you’ve never driven a D-10, it’s the coolest experience,” Bush said afterward. Yeah, almost as much fun as seeing your life flash before your eyes.

    The press corps ought to be more careful. After all, it was Caterpillar that made the bulldozer involved in Rachel Corrie‘s self-inflicted accidental death.

    (Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Josh Smith, Nitin Julka, Ed Lasky, Paul Dyck, Don Stewart, Cliff Thier, Arnold Nelson, Jason Schwartz, Evan Slatis, Charlie Gaylord, Taylor Dinerman, John Roney, Dave Huber, Ethel Fenig, Stu Cohn, Brendan Schulman, Ray Bloom, Stu Gittelman, Doug MacDonald, George Persico, David Gale, John Forsberg, Raymond Wilson, Dan O’Shea, Lee Hollaar, Israel Pickholtz, Nick Olson, Paul Moore, Fran McDonald, Jerry Rhoden, Karen Gruber, Jerry Skurnik, John Sinnott, George Mitchell and Mike Noonan. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

    URL for this article: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110009603

    Today on OpinionJournal:

    • Review & Outlook: Congress tries again to hit CEO pay. Watch out, middle class.
    • Charles Kesler (from the Claremont Institute): Conservatives blame Republicans for losing Congress. Are they right?
    • John Fund: The man behind “Free to Choose” with Milton Friedman.


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[From Google Reader] Fmr. CIA Chief: “We Probably Gave Powell the Wrong Speech”

In a fascinating interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, Former European CIA Chief Tyler Drumheller recounts what it was like working for the CIA during the run up to the Iraq War and talks — to the extent he can — about how the administration dealt with the extraordinary renditions we’ve been hearing so much about lately. Drumheller first broke his silence back in April of last year on CBS’ 60 minutes. (h/t Glenn) Spiegel International: Drumheller: I had assured my German friends that [“Curveball’s” claims] wouldn’t be in the speech. I really thought that I had put it to bed. I had warned the CIA deputy John McLaughlin that this case could be fabricated.

http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/01/31/fmr-cia-chief-we-probably-gave-powell-the-wrong-speech/