Entries Tagged as 'Hillary Clinton'

Airbrushing Hillary? It’s a Sin

May 9th, 2011 at 7:12 pm 20 Comments

The story has now gone around the world.  The Orthodox, Hassidic, Jewish newspaper, Di Tzeitung, republished the famous photo of President Obama and his advisors watching the raid on Bin Laden’s compound while they were sitting in the situation room.  The only thing is that this publication cut out Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason, director of counterterrorism, from this photograph.


Let it be stated for the record that this Orthodox Hassidic newspaper through this action was itself in violation of many severe sins.

First, they have violated the sin of “baal tosif”, there is a prohibition in Torah against adding more prohibitions.  This is based upon Deuteronomy 4:2, which states, “Do not add what I have commanded to you.”  Nowhere in the Torah does it state that it is prohibited to look at a picture of a woman who is modestly dressed.  In cutting out Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason, they are thus guilty of this sin.

They have also violated the sins of “midvar sheker tirchak”, not distancing themselves from falsehoods (Exodus 23:7).  One is guilty for this sin by presenting a story that is inaccurate. Similarly they have violated the Talmudic sin (Babylonian Talmud, Hullin 94a)of “geneivat data” (stealing the mind), tricking someone into believing an inaccurate idea.

By tampering with this photo in violation of White House guidelines, they have violated the Talmudic sin that one must obey the laws of the land, (“dina demalchuta dina”, the law of the land is the law).

They have also violated the positive commandment of “hakarat hatov”, showing gratitude.  This commandment is described in the classic and great medieval work, Sefer HaChinuch as follows:  ”recognize and bestow kindness upon one who has done him good and that he not be base, a dissimulator, and one who denies the good done him by another.”  Since Ms. Clinton and Ms. Tomason worked on this effort for many years, it is disgraceful that they were cut out of this photo.

Obama Keeps Bill Happy

David Frum March 29th, 2011 at 6:42 pm 14 Comments

Some speechwriter must have had a little chuckle as he drafted President Obama’s remarks at the UN.

Obama apologized to former President Clinton for keeping the Secretary of State so busy that she had no time to spend with Bill.

I had to apologize to President Clinton before he walked out because he never sees his wife. But the extraordinary work she’s doing in London today, ampoule the extraordinary work that she’s done over the past several months is part of that core understanding that when we act together, it’s a force multiplier.

You can only imagine Clinton’s reply: “No, no it’s my pleasure.”

Scorched Earth Conservatives

David Frum September 24th, 2009 at 11:19 am 165 Comments

In a fiery debate, Frontpagemagazine.com editor David Horowitz accuses NewMajority’s David Frum of “scorched-earth attacks on Glenn Beck.” Frum replies:


David, your piece above is a real service. It focuses the issues very clearly and tightly in a way that helps everybody understand this discussion better, whatever side they ultimately end up on.

It’s bad luck for you that we are having this discussion in the same week that Glenn Beck a) expressed his enthusiasm for a Hillary Clinton presidency, b) stated that he thought Obama a better president than John McCain would have been, and c) wished that he could travel back in time to vote for Ron Paul. Now do you see what I mean when I call Beck “unscrupulous”? He’s an act, a showman, as indifferent to the future of conservative politics as he is to the facts of Cass Sunstein’s career. I agree he’s a very good showman, a natural TV talent. But he cares nothing, David, about politics in the way you care about it, and you are in for more nasty surprises if you continue to place your hopes in him.

In this, Beck is very different even from Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin. I’ve crossed swords with these other broadcasters for other reasons. I believe that their rage and extremism repel more supporters than they attract. But at least these broadcasters do know a lot about politics and hold considered and coherent worldviews. Beck, by contrast, is a random walk, capable of reaching any outcome. And I have to believe that after Beck’s performance over the past couple of days, you probably inwardly agree with me.

However, David, your post deals with more than Glenn Beck personally. You raise other important issues and present some personal challenges – and I take both very seriously.

You write: “[Al] Franken is now a U.S. Senator in part because conservatives of whom you are typical want to conduct politics by the Marquis of Queensberry rules when the other side is in it as war in which destruction of the enemy is the game.”

I am as disgusted as you by the election of Al Franken. Norm Coleman was one of the senators I admired most, and his defeat in the courts was a severe blow to the country and to the Republican party.

But it’s just plain wrong to suggest that Coleman lost because Republicans were not war-like enough in their political tactics. Coleman was the senator from Minnesota! His well-deserved reputation for decency, integrity and civility were huge political assets to him.

No, Al Franken is a senator for three very different reasons, which call for a different political approach than you propose.

Coleman lost (1) because the Democrats learned from the 2000 Bush v. Gore recount experience to organize much more effective close-election responses than the GOP. They worked better with local government officials, they fielded larger legal teams, and they did more effective media messaging. In other words: The Dems come to these kinds of fights better prepared, more sophisticated, and better financed than the Republicans.

Coleman lost (2) because five years of bad economic and foreign news had corroded support for Republicans nationwide – and not even as attractive a candidate as Coleman could survive in a state like Minnesota.

And Coleman lost (3) because beyond these political cycles, there has been since the mid-1990s a deeper and broader national trend away from a Republican party that seems out of touch and out of date to voters under 40 and outside the South.

The kind of “in your face” conservatism that you laud makes all these problems worse.

You challenge me to notice that the “embarrassments to our cause – the shrill, the enraged and the paranoid – who in your mind – seem to be Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and now Glenn Beck” are also our “most powerful and feared and charismatic conservatives.”

I challenge you to notice that all three of these people repel and offend many millions more Americans than they inspire and attract.

Look at the impact of this kind of politics on the three points I itemize above.

(1)   If we accept that conservatism will remain a politics that is unacceptable to the young, the urban, and the educated, we will have great difficulty raising the resources and finding the volunteers to fight a recount battle on anything like equal terms. Jon Stewart’s audience will sleep on the floor, five to a room, through an Iowa winter. The Fox audience won’t and can’t.

(2)   We lost in 2008 in large part because we had not governed successfully over the previous eight years. More than political tactics, more even than media, what matters in politics is results. If national incomes had grown by 1% a year under George Bush instead of stagnating, Al Franken would have lost in a landslide. Populists like Sarah Palin may excite a TV audience, but they cannot govern. They don’t like it and are not good at it. (That’s why Sarah Palin did not even complete one term in office, let alone run for a second.) Limbaugh and Beck style politics can gain ratings. It will not win re-elections.

(3)   See point 1, only with triple exclamation marks.

Let me end by responding to your more personal remarks. You criticize me for being too tough on fellow-conservatives – and for taking some of these criticisms to a more general domain rather than keeping them in-house. And you know what? I too worry about this a lot.

I suppose I could point out in self-defense that nobody ever seems to mind very much when one or another of these conservatives speaks far more stridently about me than I have ever spoken about anyone – that the movement conservative version of Reagan’s 11th commandment seems very much a one-way option only to be exercised in favor of radio and TV hosts, never enforced against them. As self-defenses go, that would not be a very interesting one. Here’s something however that might be more interesting:

I speak out against people like Palin, Limbaugh and Beck because in my estimation they do enormous harm to the causes in which I believe. In my view, the talk-and-Fox complex marginalizes Republicans – and backs us into demagogic and unsustainable political positions. David, do you really want to abolish the Federal Reserve? Do you think the United States should have allowed Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other banks to follow Lehman into bankruptcy in October 2008? Do you think that any cuts to Medicare amount to a death panel for grandma? Do you think we can sustain an adequate military – never mind finance future tax reductions – if we allow healthcare to continue rising from its current 16% of GDP to a projected 20% of GDP a decade from now if nothing changes?

I can’t believe you do. And if you don’t believe these things, is it not dangerous to have talk-and Fox whipping a couple of million conservatives into frenzy over things that are not true?

On the other hand, maybe I’m entirely wrong. Maybe “end the Fed” and “death panels” are a sustainable future for the conservative movement. Maybe talk-and-Fox are (as their admirers claim) energizing new and previously apolitical people to join the political process. If so, that would be a real achievement.

But is it so? I don’t believe it. I believe that their ratings and advertising imperatives are pushing them in a direction fundamentally antithetical to the electoral and governance imperatives of the GOP and the conservative movement.

Of course I could be wrong in my belief. So let me finish by issuing a proposition to you. Let’s test our diverging intuitions. Let’s sit down together and hire a mutually agreed  pollster – Gallup? Whit Ayres? – to design a survey that can test whether the 9/12 protesters, the tea party attendees, the Glenn Beck audience really are new participants in politics.

If Beck is energizing new and previously apolitical people, then I will join you in saluting his achievement.

But if we discover that he is not energizing the previously apolitical – that he is instead inviting the Ron Paul contingent to take over as the new base and face of conservatism and Republicanism – then you’ll have to agree with me that we are witnessing a disaster in the making.

We don’t have to guess. We can know. Will you work with me to find out?


Click here for earlier posts in the debate.

Qaddafi’s Gift to Obama

David Frum August 27th, 2009 at 8:12 am 5 Comments

Muammar Qaddafi delivered President Obama a welcome gift this week—a gift made all the more valuable by the remarkable lack of curiosity of the U.S. press about what exactly was contained inside the box.

The hero’s welcome given to the convicted Lockerbie bomber in Tripoli diverted media attention from embarrassing questions about the bomber’s release to the much easier issue of the bomber’s reception. Now the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy will drive the entire subject into the back pages and specialty blogs.

President Obama is unlikely now to have to explain any of the strange mysteries and contradictions in his administration’s handling of the affair.

Let’s recap:

When the Scottish government announced its decision to allow Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi to return home, the Obama administration reacted with remarkable restraint. Two hundred seventy people were murdered in the Lockerbie attack, 180 of them Americans—the worst international terrorist attack on Americans before 9/11 itself. Megrahi was the only person brought to justice in the case, and he had served only eight years in prison. Now he was to go free. The president’s reaction? He called the decision a “mistake.” In a written statement, his secretary of state pronounced herself “deeply disappointed.”

This president knows how to express himself more vividly when he wishes. He didn’t call the arrest of Henry Louis Gates a “mistake.” It’s not “disappointment” he conveys to Benjamin Netanyahu over Israeli settlements.

The president’s defenders applaud his restrained language. The blogger Matthew Yglesias wrote in praise of Obama’s “no drama foreign policy”: “Talking with the UK government in advance about our objections to releasing a Lockerbie bomber might achieve something. But loudly denouncing them ex post facto isn’t going to help anyone or improve anything.”

But the question raised by the president’s muted response to the release is precisely that. Did the U.S. administration speak to the U.K. about the release in advance? And what did the U.S. say?

It’s becoming apparent that much that has been said about the release was untrue, or at least misleading.

We were told that the decision was wholly and entirely that of Scottish Justice Minister Kenny McAskill. That story is disintegrating before our eyes. Megrahi’s release has been the subject of negotiation between Libya and the United Kingdom government since at least 2004. Before quitting office, Tony Blair negotiated a prisoner transfer agreement with the Libyans—an eyebrow-raising use of prime ministerial time, since there was only one Libyan national in the entire UK prison system: Megrahi. At the same time, the U.K. energy company BP signed a huge new deal to explore for gas in Libya.

After meandering for years, the Megrahi discussions suddenly accelerated in 2009. Gordon Brown and Muammar Qaddafi met privately at the G-8 summit in Italy in July. According to correspondence released by Downing Street this week, they agreed there on a discreet reception for Megrahi in the event of a hypothetical future release.

So Scotland’s decision came as no surprise to Gordon Brown. Rather what seemed to have happened was this:

The U.K. government negotiated and smoothed the way for Megrahi’s release. Then it sat back and left the dirty work to the Scots, in full awareness of the very left-leaning McAskill’s soft-on-crime susceptibilities.

Brown knew his man. Scottish prison regulations contemplate compassionate release only for those within three months of death. It is not at all clear that Megrahi has come so close to his end—most of the medical advice received by the Scottish government predicted that Megrahi could live another year or more. McAskill set aside the consensus to rely on one assessment by one doctor.

Relations between the Scottish and U.K. governments are poor these days, and so McAskill’s decision represented a double win for Brown: He got the release he wanted—and the Scottish National Party government back in Edinburgh got the blame.

But here’s the question that has yet to be asked by U.S. reporters: Where was the Obama administration during these U.K. machinations?

We do know that the British kept the U.S. briefed well enough for American diplomats to protest the looming U.K./Scottish decision. At the same time, we read in the British press that U.S. officials indicated that they preferred a humanitarian release to a prisoner transfer.

Those reports raise further questions:

Exactly how vigorously did the Obama administration protest? Why did those protests produce so little result? Do British/Scots feel so little regard for the new Obama administration that they ignore its strong complaints? Or were complaints possibly less than strong? After all, a complaint in the form, “We don’t want you to do X, but if you must do X, we prefer that you do it in the following way…” does not constitute a very resounding warning.

If the U.S. complaints about the decision to release were as weak as reported, why were they so weak? Many in the intelligence community have long doubted that the Libyans were in fact responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. Serious people have argued for 20 years that the attack originated in Syria and Iran. Does Secretary of State Hillary Clinton share those doubts? Very possibly so. Listen to her careful avoidance of any affirmative statement about Megrahi’s guilt in an Aug. 19 interview with the BBC: “I just think it is absolutely wrong to release someone who has been imprisoned based on the evidence about his involvement in such a horrendous crime.”

Will somebody please ask the secretary what she meant by those words? Will somebody please ask the president whether he too feels such doubts? And if the administration does doubt Megrahi’s guilt, what steps will they take to bring the real terrorists to justice? Or is going after Syria and Iran even more inconvenient to this administration’s foreign policy goals than going after Libya?

Nobody is asking. Nobody seems to much care. The festivities in Tripoli have allowed White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to pile up the rhetoric. The bomber’s reception was “disgusting” said Gibbs. Those words enable reporters to say that the administration has strongly denounced … something. But what exactly has been denounced?

Who notices the sleight of hand by which the condemnation has been redirected from the people who let Megrabi go to the people who took Megrahi in? Who sees that the intent of the administration’s belated outrage is not to condemn Libya, but to exonerate itself?

Originally published in The Week.