Emmy Plane Crash

As much fun as it is to make fun of Hollywood liberals, I’m not going to join the pile on over the plane crash skit at the Emmy’s that came hours after the real plane crash in Kentucky. It may have been less-than-desirable timing, but I don’t see a need for conservative bloggers to create a whole controversy out of it — that’s what liberals are supposed to be for.

Chafee vs. Laffey

Hotline reports that the Republican 72 hour program has been activated to help Sen. Lincoln Chafee in his primary against Club for Growth-backed conservative Stephen Laffey:

Workers start arriving Friday and will be charged with sorting out the mess that Washington operatives believe is the Chafee campaign. First task may be to get Republican voters to forget Chafee’s erratic performance in the last two of the four broadcast debates between the incumbent and his lively challenger, Cranston mayor Stephen Laffey.

It’s hard to tell how close the race actually is, because Rhode Island allows Independents to vote in the Republican primary and it’s hard to gauge their turnout likelihood or voting preferences. But a theoretical poll for the general election shows likely Democratic nominee Sheldon Whitehouse in a dead heat with Chafee and more than 30 points ahead of Laffey. This highlights a very real dilemma for frustrated conservative voters who want to see real conservatives in the House and Senate. In a liberal northeastern state such as Rhode Island, is it better to nominate a true conservative who gets trounced in the general election by the Democrat, or nominate a liberal Republican like Chafee who is far from ideal, but preferable to a Democrat? What if Chafee is defeated in the primary and Democrats end up taking over the Senate by one vote, with Chafee’s seat swinging control over to the Democrats? There is clearly also a compelling case to be made that Republicans don’t deserve to be in power if they are going to abandon conservative principles, but it is also worth considering whether someone like Chafee is the best chance Republicans have of winning in Rhode Island.

I think the Chafey-Laffey race also highlights something else. For all the David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan talk about a Lieberman-McCain party, the electorate seems to be sending the opposite message so far this election season. Whether it’s Lamont vs. Lieberman, Chafee vs. Laffey, or Walberg vs. Schwartz in Michigan, people seem to want more polarization and real differences between the two parties, rather than more bi-partisanship.

No Media, No Qassams?

Michael Totten, reporting from southern Israel, near Gaza, writes:

“How many rockets are hitting the city right now?” I said.

“Not as many today,” he said. “Because of the war in Lebanon.”

“What does Lebanon have to do with it?” I said.

“All the journalists forgot about us during the Lebanon war. So the terrorists are waiting for the media to come back before firing rockets again. They don’t want to waste those they have.”

“That can’t be the only reason,” I said. “The IDF has been active in Gaza this entire time. Surely that has something to do with it.”

“Yes,” he said. “Also because of the IDF.

Later two more Israelis repeated what Shika said about Hamas and Islamic Jihad cooling their rocket launchers while the media’s attention was elsewhere. I haven’t heard any official confirmation from either side that it’s true.

This doesn’t strike me as hard to believe. Terrorism feeds off of the media and couldn’t be an effective tool were it not for the media’s ability to magnify terrorists’ attacks and draw attention to their greivances (not to mention any counteroffensive). Many people will trace the origins of modern terorism back to the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics — and it’s no coincidence that those terrorists chose to attack at an event that the whole world was watching.

Link via RealClearPolitics.

Israel’s Debate Over Targeted Killings

A great article in yesterday’s Washington Post described the internal debates in Israel over targeted killings of terrorists, specifically the conflict over risking Palestinian civilian casualties to kill terrorist leaders whose deaths would mean saving Israeli lives. The article focuses in on one specific incident in 2003, in which a “who’s who” list of Hamas leaders (including current Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh) was meeting in one house. The dilemma? “A half-ton bomb wouldn’t finish the job, the air force chief said. A one-ton bomb would blow out the neighboring apartment building, which was filled with dozens of families.” Eventually, the Israelis found out that the curtains were closed on the top floor of the house, so they decided to take a chance that the leaders were meeting on that floor. They used a quarter-ton bomb to destroy only that floor, but it turned out that the terrorists were meeting on the ground level, and so the terrorists escaped.

It’s hard to think of another country — other than the United States — that would go to such lengths to protect civilians’ lives even when their own security is on the line. Yet Israel is still the pariah of the world.

Re: Armitage? Duh

For what it’s worth, Robert Novak said on “Meet the Press” that he never reveals a source unless that source reveals himself, but added that he thinks it’s time for his source to come forward.

Jackie Mason Sues Jews For Jesus

The AP reports on occasional TAS contributor Jackie Mason:

NEW YORK – Jackie Mason is suing Jews for Jesus, claiming the missionary group damaged him by using his name and likeness in a pamphlet.

“While I have the utmost respect for people who practice the Christian faith, the fact is, as everyone knows, I am as Jewish as a matzo ball or kosher salami,” the 75-year-old comedian said in documents filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan….

The pamphlets feature an image of Mason next to the words “Jackie Mason … A Jew for Jesus!?” with information inside that outlines the similarities between Jews and Christians.

“The pamphlet uses my name, my likeness, my ‘shtick’ (if you will), and my very act, which is derived from my personality, to attract attention and converts,” Mason said in an affidavit.

Can you imagine seeing that go to trial?

Israel’s Right Turn

The Jerusalem Post reports that if a new election were held today, the right-wing parties would take control of the Israeli government:

A Ma'agar Mohot poll, broadcast on Channel 2 on Thursday evening found that if the election was held today, the Likud and Israel Beiteinu would each win 24 seats, Kadima would fall from 29 to 14, and Labor would fall from 19 to only 9.

Meanwhile, another poll, reported in the Guardian,  shows that a majority of Israelis want Olmert to go:

A poll in the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper showed 63% want Mr Olmert to go. The defence minister, Amir Peretz, appears even more vulnerable with 74% calling for his resignation, while 54% want the chief of staff, Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, to resign as well.

I predict that a new election will be called by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan stand-in David Weigel, pointing to that poll,  contrasts  the willingness of Israelis to criticize their government with  the U.S., where  Republicans  claim that criticism of  President Bush emboldens the enemy.  That comparison makes some sense  and I've personally never made the "don't criticize the president during wartime" argument because I know that if I disagreed with the president, I wouldn't want to be silent.  But a  crucial difference is  that Israel is a parliamentary system in which elections can be held at any time. So, by calling for Olmert to go, there's a better chance that  a new government will be put in place. And that's quite common. However, in the American form of government, barring an extraordinary set of circumstances, a president who gets elected is going to serve out a full four years. Only once has a president been forced to resign, and it had nothing to do with policy. So, by not just criticizing but villainizing the president, you're just weakening someone who, like it or not, is going to be in power through  the next election.

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Romney and Evangelicals

James Antle’s piece today makes a good case for how Romney could appeal to evangelicals in 2008, despite his Mormonism. While he may not be the ideal choice for evangelicals, given his previous pro-choice stances, I think he may be able to market himself as a born again pro-lifer like Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush before him– especially against Giuliani, given his liberal social views, and McCain, who just makes conservatives’ skin crawl.

The problem for Romney–and I think this is a huge problem–is that he doesn’t have any credentials on national security. I’m sure he’ll say all the right things, but I don’t think that will be enough. People may argue that President Bush came into office without national security credentials. However, he was elected prior to 9/11, and 2008 will be the first contested primary since that fateful day. Fighting terrorism is the defining issue of our time, and while I think that merely saying the right things was good enough in past elections, I don’t think that will work anymore. You need a real record. Romney doesn’t have it. It’s for this very reason that I consider Giuliani to be the actual frontrunner.

And, moving beyond national security, Romney’s universal healthcare plan makes me worry that he would try to be the torch bearer for Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” that has given us the Medicare prescription drug plan and No Child Left Behind. David Hogberg has been keeping tabs on how RomneyCare isn’t working out, recently here.

No Terrorism To See Here

Critics of President Bush’s conduct in the War on Terror get testy when they are accused of not taking the threat of terrorism seriously, but with increasing prominence, they are making their true feelings known.

Quite simply, they don’t think terrorism is a big deal.

In a recent American Prospect column, Matthew Yglesias wrote that the Bush administration has been “fostering a climate of panic and paranoia” and “blowing the risks of conventional terrorism all out of proportion…”

John Mueller, who has lately been making a career out of downplaying terrorism, has an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs entitled, “Is There Still a Terrorist Threat?” In it, he writes: “The massive and expensive homeland security apparatus erected since 9/11 may be persecuting some, spying on many, inconveniencing most, and taxing all to defend the United States against an enemy that scarcely exists.”

Reason‘s Ronald Bailey pointed out that people are more likely to die in a car accident, drowning, fire or by murder than in a terrorist attack. This lead him to conclude that “with risks this low there is no reason for us not to continue to live our lives as though terrorism doesn’t matter — because it doesn’t really matter.”

Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, made a similar argument in a 2004 article for Regulation, in which he wrote that since the late 1960s, the number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks is “about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reactions to peanuts.” The statistic is slightly misleading because starting in the 1960s allowed Mueller to include many years of data during which time terrorism was not as widespread as it has been since the 1990s. So, for instance, between 1990 and 2003, 756 people were killed by lightning, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute. That’s about one-fourth the number of people who died on Sept. 11.

But there’s no reason to squabble over such details. The overarching point is true enough. There are a lot of potential causes of premature death, many of which have proved far more deadly to Americans than terrorism. However, it’s also true that Americans have taken precautions against those other dangers — precautions that may have at one time seemed drastic. When I was in elementary school, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were my lunchtime staple. For my niece, they are contraband, because like many other schools today, hers is peanut-free. Traffic accidents are still a major cause of death in America, but the death rate has declined considerably over the past several decades as a result of seat belts, air bags and drunk-driving laws. More recently, states have passed laws restricting cell phone use.

Even this analysis, however, gives too much credit to comparisons between terrorism and other causes of death. Murders and car accidents may kill more Americans than terrorism does, but those deaths occur across fifty states, for a litany of different reasons. Terrorism is primarily caused by Islamic fundamentalists from the Middle East who have declared war on modernity and are often financed or hosted by countries that are our avowed enemies. If an overwhelming majority of homicides in the U.S. were caused by a loose collection of gangs from California who shared similar ideological motives for killing Americans, the war on crime would be fought a lot differently. Traffic laws might change drastically if, say, 99 percent of accidents were caused by German automobiles with stick shifts.

Furthermore, terrorism is a different type of threat because in addition to the human carnage it leaves behind, it targets symbols of American power and prosperity (such as the World Trade Center and the Pentagon). Were we to have a nonchalant attitude toward terrorism because it mathematically presents a lower fatality risk relative to other dangers, it would not only put us at risk for attacks worse than Sept. 11, but it would demonstrate weakness to current and potential adversaries. As the 9/11 Commission reported, Osama Bin Laden was inspired by the U.S. withdrawal from Somalia in 1993. How would our enemies and allies view America today were we to brush aside dastardly attacks on prominent symbols of our financial and military might?

Some may say that I am attacking a straw man by accusing others of wanting to brush aside terrorist attacks, but that is precisely what Mueller suggested in his Regulation article when he wrote, “a sensible policy approach to the problem might be to stress that any damage terrorists are able to accomplish likely can be absorbed, however grimly.” In other words, when people are killed in a terrorist attack, just move on, because just as many people might drown in their bathtubs.

As scary as that attitude might sound today, that’s precisely how we did treat terrorism prior to Sept. 11. In 1993, when 6 people were killed and 1,000 injured in the first World Trade Center attack, President Clinton warned Americans not to “overreact.” His administration treated the attack as a simple criminal matter, ignoring crucial evidence that revealed grander ambitions among Islamists to attack America. Americans did have Bailey’s terrorism “doesn’t really matter” attitude throughout the 1990s, and as a result we ignored the threat of al Qaeda as it carried out attacks against American targets with increasing frequency, boldness and sophistication: Khobar Towers in 1996, U.S. Embassies in 1998, and the USS Cole in 2000.

Those who argue that the terrorist threat is being overblown also make the mistake of thinking that just because something hasn’t happened in the past, it won’t happen in the future. In his piece, Yglesias mocks the reaction to the recent British terror arrests, noting that “Precisely zero people have been killed in liquid explosive attacks.” Well, through Sept. 10, 2001, precisely zero Americans were killed by hijacked airliners being flown into skyscrapers, but that provided little comfort to those whose lives were cut short the next morning.

The further we get from Sept. 11th, the more temptation there will be to become complacent in the face of the terrorist threat. In fact, this is precisely why terrorism presents such a unique danger and why it is much more effective at dividing our country than more conventional threats we have faced.

Since Sept. 11th, we have seen attacks at a Bali nightclub, on Egyptian resorts, on trains in Madrid and Mumbai, on London’s public transportation systems as well as continued attacks on Israel. Even if you buy into the view that Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism, there is clearly a global war taking place.

Fortunately, terrorists have been unable to mount a successful attack on U.S. soil in almost five years, but that is more a testament to our increased awareness of the threat than a reason to return to the carefree attitude of the past.

Philip Klein is a reporter for The American Spectator.

JPost: Israel may ‘go it alone’ against Iran

According to the Jerusalem Post:

Israel is carefully watching the world’s reaction to Iran’s continued refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, with some high-level officials arguing it is now clear that when it comes to stopping Iran, Israel “may have to go it alone,” The Jerusalem Post has learned.

If it comes to this, let’s hope that the Olmert government can do a better job than it did against Hezbollah.