Islamic Nationalism

Over at Andrew Sullivan's blog, David Weigel pokes fun at Kathryn Jean Lopez for poking fun at Jack Reed. Reed, in a conference call with Chuck Schumer, had this to say about the term "Islamofascism":

This is not a nationalistic organization that is trying to seize control of a particular government. It is a religious movement. It is motivated by apocalyptic visions. It is something that is distributed. Most of these terrorist cells seem to be evolving through imitation, rather than being organized. And again, I think it goes to the point of that their first response is, you know, come up with a catchy slogan, and then they forget to do the hard work of digging into the facts and coming up with a strategy and resources that will counter the actual threats we face.

I tend to use terms such as "Islamism" "radical Islam" and "Islamic fundamentalism" myself,  but Reed is dead wrong to claim that Islamists are not "nationalistic" and are not "trying to seize control of a particular government." Weigel, by claiming that "this is the most perceptive thing I've ever heard Jack Reed say," is dead wrong by association.

Modern Islamic fundamentalism, from its very start in Egypt in the 1920s, has always had the aim of creating governments based on what its adherents believed to be the pure form of Islam as advocated by Mohammed. Hasan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928, said the movement's goal was “reclaiming Islam’s manifest destiny; an empire, founded in the seventh century, that stretched from Spain to Indonesia.”

This is a tradition that was inherited by bin Laden and Zawahiri, a tradition that led to the Taliban in Afghanistan and to the creation of an Islamist state in Iran, which has threatened to destroy one of its neighbors within the context of seeking nuclear weapons, and has asserted itself by proxy in Lebanon and Iraq.

Yes, Islamic fundamentalists may have "apocalyptic visions," but apocalypse is only seen as a fallback should the conquest of Islam not prevail. In a recent article, Bernard Lewis cited a very telling quote on this precise subject from the Ayatollah Khomeini that appears in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook. It read:

"I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [i.e., the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours."

Sounds pretty nationalistic and expansionistic to me.

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Israel and the Red Cross

Today, the Washington Post recounts how Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivelent of the Red Cross, finally became a member of the international Red Cross, after nearly 60 years of being denied entry because it wanted to use the Star of David as its emblem. Missing from the article was a recounting of a 1999 incident, in which Cornelio Sommaruga, former head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was quoted as saying, “If we’re going to have the Shield of David, why would we not have to accept the swastika?”

Hard Data on Rudy in 2008

Given our Giuliani discussion, I thought it would be worthwhile to point out some data from the latest Cook Political Report/RT Strategies Poll. It backs up what I've been saying about Rudy's chances of capturing the Republican nomination.

The headline number is that Giuliani is the first choice of   32 percent of Republicans, McCain,  his closest rival, is at 20 percent. Meanwhile, Gingrich at 10 percent, Frist is at 8 percent, Romney is at 5 percent and Allen is at 4 percent.  

There have been questions raised as to whether Giuliani can succeed in the South, given his liberal social views. Well, a separate question asked respondents how they like certain politicians "as a person," on a scale from 0 to 100. In the South, Giuliani scored 62.4, which is higher than anyone else on the list, including McCain and President Bush.

People may like Giuliani as a person, critics may contend, but their support will errode once they learn of his liberal social views.  However, yet another question in the poll asked:

Thinking about Rudy Giuliani. Some people say he really cleaned up New York City as Mayor and made it a safer place, and then he showed real courage as a leader after the attack on the World Trade Center. Other people say that his views on some issues-because he is pro-choice on abortion, and supports gun control and gay rights-makes it hard for them to support him for President. Having heard that, which of the following two statements comes closer to your opinion: The   Republicans should nominate Giuliani for President, or the Republicans should not nominate Giuliani for President.

Among Republicans, 55 percent said he should be nominated, compared with 39 percent who said he should not.

Sure, there's the obvious caveat that there's a long way until 2008, but I think this another blow to the conventional wisdom that Rudy can't win.

More poll analysis at Giuliani Blog. Hat tip: RealClearPolitics.

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Re: South Park Democrats

Shawn, fair enough if we’re talking about things from a philosophical, rather than purely political perspective. I agree that Republicans can use a healthy dose of anti-statism. With that said, it’s worth adding that there’s a lot libertarians could do to gain more influence within the Republican Party. The reality is that politicians are primarily interested in winning elections, and the only way to gain influence is to convince them that you can help them win. Religious conservatives weren’t always a major part of the party, but once they proved themselves a dependable voting bloc, willing to volunteer and turnout on Election Day, they won a seat at the table. Sure, they haven’t gotten much of what they wanted, but they are surely better off than they would have been had they sat on their hands for the past several decades (if nothing else, look at Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts). In contrast, libertarians tend to be a cynical bunch not likely to get involved in the cheesy elements of bumper-sticker politics that dominate elections. They often brag about not voting or hold out hope for gridlock, which, at best, moderately restrains the rate of growth of government spending. As John pointed out, there are a lot of splits within libertarianism, so it’s hard to think of them as a clear voting bloc. All of these are totally understandable reactions to contemporary politics and the statist Republican Party, but the real world result of this is that libertarians have not proven themselves a potentially active, loyal, voting bloc capable of swinging close elections. Therefore, a vicious circle ensues in which Republicans don’t try to appeal to libertarians, and libertarians become more disaffected. Taking a more fatalistic view, I could see libertarians regaining influence once the looming entitlement crisis actually materializes. Just as neo-cons held more sway after 9/11 because they had a ready made philosophy well-tailored for the terrorist threat, libertarians are best-positioned to offer solutions to the entitlements mess.

Re: More Giuliani

Dave, based on your two earlier posts, we agree on at least two things: 1) The terrorism/national security issue will prove crucial in 2008. 2) Giuliani is the best-positioned Republican on this issue. I will not attempt to deny that Giuliani has taken liberal stances on many (if not most) social issues, and that for some social conservatives this makes him simply an unacceptable candidate. But, given his advantage on national security, he doesn’t have to be the ideal social conservative candidate. His much narrower task is to win over some social conservatives and prevent an all out revolt against his candidacy by those who don’t like him. I think this is achievable.

Before breaking it down issue by issue, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a lot that Giuliani can do to soften social conservatives opposition to him. Aside from his leadership during 9/11 and bona fides on the terrorism issue, he is unlike any politician in that he doesn’t speak out of both sides of his mouth. Whether you agree or disagree with Giuliani, you’ll never have any doubt where he stands on a given issue. When he takes a stand, he’ll explain exactly why he took it. As mayor, he would face down the New York media in hostile press conferences without apology. In 1999, Giuliani cut off the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s public funding and sought to evict it when an exhibition featured a portrait of the Virgin Mary smeared with elephant dung. For those who aren’t from New York, it’s hard to express what an incredibly gutsy stance this was to take in an ultra-liberal city that loves its publicly subsidized art.

Continuing on the theme of what can soften opposition to a Giuliani candidacy, I would point to the spending issue. Now, I know this is not a social issue, but I think that many social conservatives are also very concerned about runaway government spending. Giuliani could run on a platform of spending cuts, given his reputation as being a tough leader as well as the history of the budget wars during his time as mayor. No, this wouldn’t win over the most hardened social conservatives, but (combined with national security) it could make Giuliani more palatable. If he can convince conservatives that he will restrain spending and be tough on the War on Terror, it will be easier for them to swallow his positions on social issues.

Okay, so those are a few examples of what Giuliani can do to soften opposition, but Dave’s question still deserves an answer: “how will Giuliani answer for his greatest liabilities in a Republican primary?”

Immigration: Giuliani can draw from his experience as crime fighting mayor and make a vow to secure the borders and improve documentation so that we know who is actually in the country. He’ll be pro-legal immigration and will support something along the lines of a guest-worker program. This will be seen as amnesty to many conservatives, but other than Tom Tancredo, I don’t see other Republican candidates moving that far to the right of Bush on immigration.

Abortion: Giuliani can say that he’ll support judicial nominees that respect the constitution, in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, etc. While McCain is pro-life, he clearly has other problems with conservatives. Romney will have to overcome statements such as this in 1994:

“I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country; I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate.”

“I believe that Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice. And my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign.”

Or this in 2002:

“The choice to have an abortion is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not the government’s.”

To answer your question Dave, yes, perhaps people will believe that Romney’s change was sincere, but I’m highly skeptical given that his change only occurred once he no longer had to face reelection in Massachusetts. Either way, all of Romney’s past statements make it easier for Giuliani to overcome the statements that he made when running for mayor of New York.

Family matters: Yes, Giuliani has had three marriages and a very public, messy divorce. There’s not much he can do about this other than appear happy with his current wife. Also, not to excuse him, but his situation is different than Clinton’s in several respects. Clinton lied directly to the American people, first about Gennifer Flowers and then about Monica Lewinsky (the latter under oath). Also, Clinton took advantage of a young intern, whereas Giuliani was estranged from his wife and became involved with a mature, professional woman. But, either way, there’s no doubt that Giuliani’s personal background will turn off some voters. I just don’t see it as a deal breaker.

Gay marriage: Giuliani doesn’t support gay marriage, but he does support civil unions and would oppose a federal marriage amendment (which McCain voted against). I think Romney has effectively positioned himself to the right of Giuliani on this issue.

Guns: Giuliani clearly supported gun control as mayor and won’t be the NRA’s candidate, that’s for sure. However, McCain has his own problems on guns, because his disregard for the First Amendment on McCain-Feingold has made conservatives nervous about whether he would be protective of Second Amendment rights. Also, Romney has expressed support for the federal assault weapons ban, so I think he’s just as vulnerable on this issue.

So, to sum up, Giuliani will clearly not be the first choice of conservatives who vote primarily on the issues discussed above. However, given his strength on national security and other attributes, I think he’ll be able to win over some social conservatives, and placate enough others, to capture the nomination (especially because his chief rivals will encounter their own problems with conservatives).

I think the statements of our own Larry and Hunter back up the point that social conservatives would be willing to support Giuliani.

P.S. Sorry Wlady for the long post!

Re: South Park Democrats

John, fair enough that there were 10 Bush voters in that informal Reason poll, but I also counted 47 participants. So, with only 10 votes out of 47, I’m willing to stand by my statement that “most everybody” did not vote for Bush (I didn’t mean to imply everybody).

Shawn, I totally agree that libertarianism (to the extent that it means a principled defense of small government) is central to the Republican Party. There was a time when I would have referred to myself as a libertarian. But, since 9/11, there has been a clear split among libertarians over fighting terrorism. There are those, such as myself, who have sided with the administration on Iraq and civil liberties issues such as wiretapping, and those who are indistinguishable from the left on these issues. There are those, such as myself, who see the fight against terrorism as a defining issue of our time, and as I recently wrote, there are those libertarians, such as Reason‘s Ronald Bailey, who say that terrorism “doesn’t really matter.” As a pre-9/11 libertarian, I may still believe that marijuana should be legalized, but it’s just much lower on my list of important issues these days, whereas for orthodox libertarians (for lack of a better term) it’s still a central issue.

I have done a lot of writing about how frustration over spending may hamper turnout among conservatives and swing control of Congress to the Democrats (see the March issue of TAS and also here), but my basic point earlier today was that the type of libertarians Tierney found in Amsterdam already defected from the Republican Party. So, I don’t think Gillespie’s statement that, “Most of the libertarians I know have given up on the G.O.P” means much for November, because I’m sure he would have said the exact same thing two years ago.

South Park Democrats

In a column in today's NY Times (subscription required), John Tierney, reporting on Reason's libertarian shindig in Amsterdam, warns that a libertarian defection could harm Republicans this November:

The G.O.P. used to have a sizable libertarian bloc, but I couldn’t see any sign of it at the conference. (South Park creators) Stone and Parker said they were rooting for Hillary Clinton in 2008 simply because it would be weird to have her as president. The prevailing sentiment among the rest of the libertarians was that the best outcome this November would be a Democratic majority in the House, because then at least there’d be gridlock.

“We’re the long-suffering, battered spouse in a dysfunctional political marriage of convenience,” said Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason. “Most of the libertarians I know have given up on the G.O.P. The odds that we’ll stick around for the midterm election are about as good as the odds that Rick Santorum will join the Village People.”

Andrew Sullivan, the blogger who coined “South Park Republican,” was at the conference with a preview of “The Conservative Soul,” his new book on the spiritual corruption of Republicans. He said he now prefers to call himself a South Park conservative, not Republican.

“The Republicans have got to be punished for destroying conservatism,” he said, explaining why he’s rooting against the party this November. “If it requires an idiotic Democratic House to stop these people from doing what they’re doing, then good.”

I have a hard time believing that if Republicans lose this November, it will  be because  libertarians stay home. Don't get me wrong, the free-spending ways of  Republicans will definitely hamper turnout among conservatives, but I think that most self-described libertarians had already left the Republican Party by 2004, either because of government spending, social issues, or the War on Terror.  

When asked who he would vote for in back in 2004 for this Reason survey, Gillespie said, "Probably no one but maybe Badnarik (the Libertarian Party candidate), if only to register dissent from the Crest and Colgate parties." In fact, most everybody quoted in that informal poll of libertarian-ish people either said they would vote Libertarian, vote for Kerry, or stay home. Sullivan, who can't vote because he is not a U.S. citizen, vocally endorsed Kerry the last election. So, before I'm convinced that a libertarian exodus is going to hurt Republicans, I'd need to see more evidence of libertarians who still supported Republicans in 2004 now saying that they've changed their minds.

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Re: Conservative Case Against Giuliani

David, I wouldn't ignore social issues, I would just say that they won't play as  dominant of  a role in 2008. Yes, social issues will still be very important, but they will just be relatively less important than they have been in the past. For all the praise that is heaped on Mitt Romney (his boosters  call him brilliant, attractive, charismatic, a business man, a problem solver, a good guy) I haven't seen many people praise him on the basis of his capabilities as a wartime leader. To me, his lack of credentials on terrorism and national security should be seen as a huge liability, one that cannot easily be made up by simply saying the right things. Yes, he may now  be on the right side of the abortion issue, but his total about-face on the issue once his political ambitions moved beyond the state of Massachusetts just makes me think of him as a typical flip-flopping politician, which in my view, further undermines his credibility as a wartime leader.    

I'm not saying that Giuliani will have an easy path to the nomination, but what I don't understand is how people are writing off his chances despite the fact that he is the best positioned on the most important issue of our time.

And that brings me to another observation. I don't think I can ever recall more debate, and more written, about how a candidate has no shot of winning than the case of Rudy Giuliani. If his candidacy is truly that hopeless, why all of the fuss?        

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Re: Conservative Case Against Giuliani

The Hawkins' post that David linked to has absolutely nothing new to say about Giuliani's record —  it's just a rehashing of what has been said over the past several years about his liberal stances on social issues making him unelectable in a Republican primary.

As I have argued before, while all of those issues may be obstacles for Giuliani, ultimately the issue of terrorism is going to dominate the Republican primary season, and Giuliani is the best positioned on that issue. 2008 will be the first contested Republican primary since 9/11, so while pundits have been focusing on Giuliani's lack of social issue bona fides, what they should spend more time focusing on is the fact that Mitt Romney and George Allen (the theoretically "conservative" options) have very few credentials on the defining issue of our time.

Furthermore, as Deroy Murdock outlined in our September cover story, it's hard to name a prominent Republican who implemented more policies dear to the right than Giuliani did as mayor, whether it was slashing welfare roles, cutting taxes, reducing the city payroll, fighting crime, restraining spending, etc.

No doubt, Giuliani will have his work cut out for him and there are some voters who will simply never accept his candidacy, but I think he can placate enough social conservatives to win. For instance,   vowing to appoint judges in the mold of Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts would help — because when it comes down to it, that's about as much power as the president has over the abortion issue. On the immigration issue, he can tap into his law enforcement background as a tough prosecutor and crime-fighting mayor to emphasize the need to secure the borders for national security purposes. Securing the borders was not part of his role as mayor, as he pointed out in this 1997 speech at Ellis Island:

"Illegal immigration is a very real problem–but it is one that lies outside of the responsibility of cities and states of this country.

"Controlling our borders is a core function of the federal government and it is a problem that requires serious attention…"

For those conservatives who vote on the basis of immigration, anybody to the left of Tom Tancredo is going to be unacceptable to them anyway. If there were a candidate who was the clear consensus choice of conservatives, I'd give Rudy lower chances. But right now, McCain — the candidate believed to be the front-runner– is   even more disliked among conservatives than Giuliani. George Allen is in a tough fight for re-election, and if the Macaca incident reveals anything, it's that he isn't ready for prime time. As recently as 2002, Romney ran as a pro-choice candidate in Massachusetts — and then did a total about-face once he set his sights on 2008.    

With no clear front-runner, and with terrorism sure to be the dominant issue in 2008, I don't see how people can still be dismissing Giuliani's chances. They are handicapping the 2008 race as if 9/11 never happened.

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