Well, a minute ago I was trying to remember exactly what Chuck Hagel's business background had been before he got into politics. Showing my sophisticated search skills, I typed "chuck hagel wikipedia" into the Google search box. And what should I see?
The very first item in the search-results list, which is an ad and has a fine-print disclosure line (and very faint background tinting) to that effect, is from something called chuckhagel.com. And if you click on that link, you get the full anti-Hagel blast. It has a slideshow of shifting critiques of Hagel, mainly emphasizing the themes that he is Bad on Defense, Bad on Israel, and Overall Too Extreme. Here is a relatively polite sample:
And what's the source of this direct "Contact Your Senator" lobbying attempt to reject a Cabinet-level nominee? Is it the Republican party, from which Hagel became estranged when he criticized the Iraq war? Democratic activists, who would like a Democratic president to choose someone from his own party? GLBT groups, who have not forgiven Hagel for his anti-gay comments about ambassador James Hormel 15 years ago?
It was bad for US-Israel relations as a whole, not just relations between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations, that the sitting leader of one country appeared to so clearly desire so obviously plumped for the defeat of the other. [I'm talking about Netanyahu's apparent strong and open pro-Mitt Romney stance last year. But some people closer to the scene have argued that he was more careful than I think; thus this edit.] It is hard to see anything but further strain coming from a personalized campaign against a former Republican senator -- and current co-chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, who has been vouched-for by five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel and four former national security advisers plus a wide assortment of military and political figures, is a wounded combat veteran, etc. -- when that campaign is being led by a group called "the Emergency Committee for Israel." Suppose a campaign against a Treasury or Commerce nominee were being led by a group of Americans calling themselves "The Emergency Committee for China," or "The Emergency Committee for Germany" or the Emergency Committee for any place else. Or a campaign against John Kerry being led by "The Emergency Committee for Cuba," or maybe Russia. That would be madness, and so is this.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg -- who has previouslyargued that Hagel-style bluntness might be a plus for U.S.-Israel relations -- predicted today that AIPAC would wisely try its best to stay out of the middle of a partisan confirmation battle. This wisdom seems to have escaped the Emergency Committee. Let's hope they back off. Among other reasons: most of the time, even controversial nominees finally get confirmed. Let's suppose that Chuck Hagel is the most forgiving and thickest-skinned person imaginable. Even so, how would he be expected to feel about a group that had done its best to pronounce him unacceptable -- and had done so in the name of another country?
UPDATE Several people have written in to say that the "Emergency Committee for Israel" really doesn't represent anyone except its donors and its small staff. Therefore they say that its anti-Hagel campaign, though very prominent -- on Google and in a number of news outlets -- should not be given too much weight or taken as representing anything more than itself. Noted, and I will try to leave it there.
On the other hand, just now we have Elliott Abrams, whose wife is one of the three people listed as being on the Emergency Committee's board (along with Kristol and Gary Bauer), telling Melissa Block on NPR that Hagel is an outright anti-Semite. Listen for yourself, but this is how it sounded to me:
[Block asked, are you saying the Senate should reject Hagel?] Abrams: He has a chance at his confirmation hearing to show that he is not what he appears to be, which is frankly an anti-Semite. It's not just being anti-Israel. He's got a problem with what he calls "the Jews," the Jewish lobby. I think if If he can't satisfy people that he is not in fact bigoted against Jews, he certainly should not be confirmed....
[Block again: You are saying he is not just "anti-Israel," but in fact anti-Semitic?] Abrams: I think if you look at the statements by Hagel, and then you look at the statements by the Nebraska Jewish community, about his unresponsiveness to them ... I don't see how you can reach any other conclusion, that he seems to have some kind of problem with Jews.
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne.
The social network learns more about its users than they might realize.
Facebook, you may have noticed, turned into a rainbow-drenched spectacle following the Supreme Court’s decision Friday that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right.
By overlaying their profile photos with a rainbow filter, Facebook users began celebrating in a way we haven't seen since March 2013, when 3 million peoplechanged their profile images to a red equals sign—the logo of the Human Rights Campaign—as a way to support marriage equality. This time, Facebook provided a simple way to turn profile photos rainbow-colored. More than 1 million people changed their profile in the first few hours, according to the Facebook spokesperson William Nevius, and the number continues to grow.
“This is probably a Facebook experiment!” joked the MIT network scientist Cesar Hidalgo on Facebook yesterday. “This is one Facebook study I want to be included in!” wrote Stacy Blasiola, a communications Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois, when she changed her profile.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Over the last two weeks, Republican presidential candidates have repeatedly missed opportunities to demonstrate that they care about communities outside of their traditional base.
After Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee published an “autopsy.” “When it comes to social issues,” the autopsy declared, “the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people.” The autopsy also added that, “we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too.”
The last two weeks, more than any since Romney’s defeat, illustrate how miserably the GOP has failed.
Start with June 17, when Dylann Roof, a young white man enamored of the Confederate flag, murdered nine African Americans in church. Within three days, Romney had called for the Confederate flag’s removal from South Carolina’s capitol. Four days later, the state’s Republican governor and senators called for its removal too. But during that entire week—even as it became obvious that the politics of the flag were shifting—not a single GOP presidential candidate forthrightly called for it to be taken down. Instead, they mostly called it a state decision, a transparent dodge politicians deploy when they don’t want to make a difficult call.
The second episode of the new season was a slow burner with a dramatic twist.
Let’s start at the beginning, with Frank in bed with his wife, Jordan, discussing water stains on the ceiling and childhood entombments. I don’t know about you guys, but I found this whole bit slack and familiar. Maybe there was a two-minute scene in there, but five? Maybe a more charismatic actor could have pulled off that lengthy monologue. But Vince Vaughn is no Robert Shaw, and his childhood basement is no U.S.S. Indianapolis.
For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?
1. Youngstown, U.S.A.
The end of work is still just a futuristic concept for most of the United States, but it is something like a moment in history for Youngstown, Ohio, one its residents can cite with precision: September 19, 1977.
For much of the 20th century, Youngstown’s steel mills delivered such great prosperity that the city was a model of the American dream, boasting a median income and a homeownership rate that were among the nation’s highest. But as manufacturing shifted abroad after World War II, Youngstown steel suffered, and on that gray September afternoon in 1977, Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced the shuttering of its Campbell Works mill. Within five years, the city lost 50,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in manufacturing wages. The effect was so severe that a term was coined to describe the fallout: regional depression.
The commonwealth is facing a serious debt crisis that could result in default, but that’s only part of the problem.
Puerto Rico is a small island with some big financial problems. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla recently told the New York Times that there was no way the island, which has been struggling with about $72 billion of debt, would be able to pay, and instead would try to work out new deals and deferred payments with some of its creditors. This, of course, has lead to fears that the commonwealth will default on its loans.
The admission that Puerto Rico’s finances are much worse than originally thought was spurred by areport commissioned by the Government Development Bank, an agency tasked with developing economic and financial strategies for the commonwealth, and conducted by current and former IMF staffers. The report, nicknamed The Krueger Plan for it’s lead author Anne Krueger, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the outlook for the debt-laden island: "Structural problems, economic shocks and weak public finances have yielded a decade of stagnation, outmigration and debt. Financial markets once looked past these realities but have since cut off the commonwealth from normal market access. A crisis looms.”
The historian and Knesset member Michael Oren accuses the president of distancing the U.S. from Israel, and calls out left-wing Jews and Israel’s Jewish critics in the American press.
In a recent post, I suggested that the intervention of two men, the former U.S. national security advisor Tom Donilon and the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, might help improve the dysfunctional relationship between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
At the time I wrote this, both men had reputations as people who were concerned about preserving the extraordinarily complicated, and extraordinarily close, U.S.-Israel relationship, and both had spent a good deal of time calming the waters between Obama and Netanyahu. Today, Donilon maintains that reputation. As for Oren …
Put it this way: If Goldblog readers would allow me to withdraw the suggestion, I’d be much obliged. Oren has created a new role for himself: acid critic of the Obama administration and of left-leaning American Jews (especially in the press and in the White House) who, he believes, are trading on their Jewishness when they criticize Israel. Oren’s critique, at its heart, is simple: Obama, in part because he wanted to reconcile the U.S. with the “Muslim world” (a very large, ill-defined, and politically complicated concept, in Oren’s mind), decided to distance the United States from Israel; to surprise Israel by altering U.S. Middle East policy without prior notice; and to negotiate with Israel’s most potent enemy without alerting Israeli leaders.
Tuesday is the official deadline for the Greek government to either make a deal with debtors or face default and its consequences.
Greece is officially out of time.
A decision on whether or not the deeply indebted country will work out a plan with its creditors or default on the €1.54 billion ($1.69 billion) it owes to the IMF and EU—a move that could serve as the prelude to the country exiting the eurozone, the much feared “Grexit”— has come down to the wire, with the country’s future still uncertain today, the deadline for payments or extension. Notable economists have called for Greece to sign a deal immediately, and for its creditors to abandon austerity.
On Monday, the English text of the Greece’s referendum ballot question was posted to Twitter.
Should the agreement plan submitted by the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the June 25 eurogroup and consisting of two parts, which form their single proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled ‘Reforms for the completion of the Current Program and Beyond’ and the second ‘Preliminary Debt sustainability Analysis’.
To understand the conflict’s legacy, consider what might have been.
In the spring of 2015, my undergraduate son and I drove the length of the 1914-1918 Western Front, from the British battlefields in Flanders through the French zone in Champagne and Lorraine to the American cemeteries and monuments: Chateau-Thierry, St. Quentin, Belleau Wood, the Argonne. The nearer we approached the American sector, the fewer tourists shared the sites with us. Under the Menin gate at Ypres—a massive memorial to Britain’s lost—we were jostled among half a thousand men and women, boys and girls. In the overwhelming Meuse-Argonne cemetery, the largest American military burying place in all Europe, we stood alone.
A Twitter follower offered me a memorable explanation of the weak hold of the First World War upon the American consciousness. “Americans prefer the sequel: better villains, bigger explosions.” There’s something to that. But if this earlier war has faded from national memory, its aftermath shapes American culture.
The president delivers his single most accomplished rhetorical performance, and it’s one you should watch rather than read.
I think Barack Obama’s eulogy yesterday for parishioners of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was his most fully successful performance as an orator. It was also one that could have come only at this point in his public career—and not, for instance, when he was an intriguing figure first coming to national notice, as he was during his celebrated debut speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston 11 years ago; or when he was a candidate fighting for political survival, as he was when he gave his “Race in America” speech in Philadelphia early in 2008.
I’ll explain why I say so, but first a word about the odd circumstances in which I’ve heard and learned about the speech.