Obama’s Absence of Strategy in the Middle East is Killing Us

by John R Guardiano on September 15, 2013

Robin Wright noted today something that I have long been arguing: Syria mustn’t be seen in isolation. Instead, Syria must be viewed within the context of the entire Middle East.

There must be, moreover, an overarching American strategy for the region, one designed to help move the Middle East in a more democratic direction.

The alternative is a state of perpetual cold and hot wars, as we try to keep the problems over there from ever reaching here. Indeed, as Wright explains:

This is something that concerns me a great deal, because we are involved in what is just a sliver of this problem.

And it’s not just Syria that’s at stake; it’s really the whole Middle East, [which is] in the middle of a transition to a new order. And we are being very political and parochial in our views of what we do, kind of, with each country.

There’s no grand principle. There’s no helping design — whether it’s using our aid [or] using our kind of infrastructure [that] we have to assist people in writing constitutions — in getting there.

Bingo! The Obama administration’s complete lack of a strategy for the Middle East is coming back to haunt us — in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Iran…

Drone strikes are not a strategy. Cruise missile strikes are not a strategy. Asking Putin for help is not a strategy. These are, at best, elements of a larger-scale strategy that is conspicuously lacking.

“Leading from behind” may be a strategy, but it’s not a very good one, because it means, in effect, the absence of American leadership in a hostile and dangerous world.

Wright adds:

Now, one of the messages out of the Middle East today is: they want to be the ones to make the decisions of what their future looks like. But at the same time — this is where, when you look at the Middle East, you can argue that we haven’t had a real success since Jimmy Carter.

Even the Gulf War in 1990-’91 was a tactical victory but a strategic failure, in that it unleashed, you know, al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and a period where Islamic extremism really began to define the region.

We need something much bigger to put out there to deal with the issue of Syria, the issue of Egypt, the issue of the Middle East.

Wright makes a fair point about our checkered record in the Middle East. However, it’s really unfair of her to blame the Gulf War for unleashing al-Qaeda, bin Laden, and a period of Islamic extremism.

In fact, Islamic extremism has been a problem since at least the Iranian Revolution of 1979. And the intellectual antecedents of this problem date back decades before that: to the writings of Sayyid Qub, who helped provide the inspiration for the anti-Western jihad.

No, the real reason al-Qaeda emerged as as a serious threat in the 1990s was that the Clinton administration was asleep at the switch and mostly ignored the growing Islamist threat. Clinton had, for instance, several chances to kill bin Laden, but refused to act.

George W. Bush may have had many failings, but he at least tried valiantly to address this problem and to construct a viable American strategy for the region. Thus he changed course in Iraq when it became clear that a new strategy was called for; and, as a result, Bush gave Obama a hard-won victory there.

Unfortunately, Obama has squandered this victory by failing to ratify a new Status of Forces agreement, which would have allowed for a contingent of American troops in Iraq. The president has since done everything that he can to disengage from the region, even announcing a ludicrous “pivot to Asia” just as the entire Middle East was exploding in an historic tumult.

But about her larger-scale point, Wright is absolutely correct: There is a crying need for a more comprehensive and far-sighted U.S. strategy in the Middle East. Non-intervention simply isn’t an option.


Non-Intevention in Syria is Not an Option

by John R Guardiano on September 12, 2013

Conservative critics of U.S. intervention in Syria charge that “there are no good options.” We face a a choice between a thuggish dictator (Assad) and al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels. So, they argue, the best thing we can do is simply stay out of the conflict altogether.

Here’s why they’re wrong: First, it is simply not true that the Syrian rebels are all Islamists and Jihadists. Some are, of course, but not all.

The Syrian uprising, in fact, “began as a popular resistance against autocracy,” reports the Institute for the Study of War. Yet, because of American passivity and inaction, foreign fighters and jihadists have poured into the country and made a bad situation even worse and more complex.

The answer to this problem, obviously, is not more of the same — more American passivity and inaction The answer, instead, is a new policy of American engagement, designed to identify and strengthen the more moderate and pro-Western elements of the opposition.

This is important, because Syria and the Middle East are now in the early stages of an historic tumult, which will last decades and probably intensify over time. This tumult can turn the region in either a positive or a negative direction. It can threaten us or it can comfort us. Thus we ignore it at our peril.

The only wise and acceptable thing to do, then, is to try and shape this tumult so that it does not threaten our interests or our people. The alternative is to risk another 9/11 terrorist attack. For this reason, non-intervention in Syria and the Middle East is not an option; it’s a risk and a danger.

Of course, this isn’t something the politicians and the public want to hear, but it’s what they need to hear. The world is too small now, and the risk too great, to pretend otherwise.


Apple: the Best Is Yet to Come

by John R Guardiano on September 11, 2013

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Apple plunged today, dropping by more than five percent. The big institutional investors are angry because Apple won’t give them a “cheap” iPhone.

This they want for the downscale market, especially overseas, and Apple won’t oblige. Apple, you see, doesn’t make cheap products; it only makes great products. So yeah, there was blood on the Street today, as Apple got killed.

No matter. I’m unfazed. I think Apple knows what it is doing. After all, it’s only the most successful company in the world! It’s only effected a revolution in how we communicate, work and play!

Sure, Google and Samsung sell a lot of phones, but Apple makes a lot of money. Serious money — far more than Google and Samsung can ever hope to make on their Android devices. Heck, Google gives away its Android operating system!

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who, today, purchased more Apple.

I really think Apple is one of my best right now. At these levels, we’re buying quite a bit of stock… We bought quite a bit today in the $465, $470, $467 range, $466…

That’s not to say it won’t go any lower — I don’t really look at it from day-to-day and we don’t try to fix what the market is going to do.

I think if they do a big buyback, that’s going to be a major plus. But I also think the products are pretty good; and I think they’re going to get a lot of business from China, and they’re going to do great anyway. You don’t see companies like this with this kind of brand.

No, you don’t. Apple is a great American success story, whose final chapters aren’t even close to being written. Think I’m wrong? Think again. Rocco Pendola nailed it:

As Tim Cook explained at a recent conference, the living room might as well be a new area, given the lack of innovation there over decades.

That’s the sweet spot for Apple. A high-end television set blended with its set top box, a home theater compatible with existing Apple devices. That’s where Apple can make it happen. And that’s where I think it plans to make it happen. Not on your wrist, but in your living room.

And that’s why I refuse to count out Apple.


Conservative champions of an assertive and forward-leaning U.S. foreign policy have been looking for a reason to support Obama’s quest for military intervention in Syria. We recognize that Assad is a steadfast Iranian ally who is doing Tehran’s bidding.

We realize that the U.S. has vital national security interests at stake in the Middle East; and that the Iranian-Syrian axis of evil has American blood on its hands.

Unfortunately, with tonight’s speech, any hope that Obama might have had to earn the support of hawkish, Jacksonian Republicans such as myself may have been lost. The speech was an exercise in strategic incoherence, tactical confusion, and geopolitical weakness.

Indeed, let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall shun any price, shirk any burden, dodge any hardship, betray any friend, appease any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of “nation-building at home.”

What a terrible message Obama has sent to oppressed peoples the world over, and especially in the Middle East: We sympathize with you, but we won’t do anything for you other than make grand and empty pronouncements. Sorry, Ahmed, but you’re on your own. Good luck.

That, in essence, is what Obama has said to the brave men in the Free Syrian Army, who are courageously fighting Assad. And, in so doing, he has denied us the chance to deliver a crippling blow to a dangerous American enemy in the heart of the Middle East.

Assad is rejoicing; al-Qaeda is celebrating; and the Mullahs in Iran are planning their next move.


How the Right Went Wrong on Syria

by John R Guardiano on September 6, 2013

Peggy Noonan’s latest column perfectly captures the foreign policy errors of the ‘non-interventionist’ cons.


Peggy Noonan wrote some fine speeches for President Reagan, including his memorable address commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

However, her Wall Street Journal columns are, sad to say, too often unserious, and today’s column about Syria is especially lamentable. But because Noonan articulates much of the misguided thinking of conservatives opposed to U.S. intervention in Syria, her column warrants a response.

  • Noonan agrees with the Pope that the world cannot remain indifferent to “‘the senseless massacre ‘unfolding’ in Syria.” However, reportedly like the Pope, she believes that a military solution is a “futile pursuit.”

Now, this is true insofar as military action in Syria is necessary but insufficient. But Noonan rejects military action in Syria altogether.

The Pope, moreover, is a religious leader, not a military strategist. As for morality, it is morally irresponsible — and wrong — to stand by while evil triumphs.

  • Noonan insists that the world “must stand up for civilization,” but that “a military strike is not the way, and not the way for America.” Yet, she offers absolutely no way, short of military intervention, for the world to affirm longstanding civilizational norms against the use of chemical weapons.

Words matter, but only if they’re backed up by serious action, and our enemies — in Syria and Iran — know this.

  • Noonan discounts concerns about American credibility. “We don’t have to bow to the claim that if we don’t attack Syria we are over as a great power.”

This is a straw man. Advocates of U.S. intervention are not worried about a loss of great power status. The United States, of course, will remain a great power. But we will be seen, by friend and foe alike, as a weak and impotent great power — useless, unwilling and incapable of acting.

Noonan says this won’t matter because Iran and North Korea will still fear us. Yes, they’ll fear our power, but increasingly less so will they fear our willingness to use that power, and that’s what counts.

Indeed, power that is not marshaled and employed for decisive strategic effects is no power at all. It is not status that concerns us, but results.

  • Noonan applauds the “ ‘wise men,” the foreign policy mandarins of the 1950s and ‘60s, who so often and frustratingly counseled moderation, while a more passionate public, on the right and left, was looking for action. ‘Ban the Bomb!’ ‘Get Castro Out of Cuba.’”

Sorry, but this moral equivalence between left and right during the Cold War cannot stand. It is simply — and dangerously — wrong.

For starters, as Dinesh D’Souza points out in his excellent study, Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader, the so-called wise men were profoundly wrong about the Soviet Union.

They counseled peaceful coexistence with the Soviets, while we conservatives counseled rollback — and Reagan’s policy of rollback was successful: It brought about the demise of the Soviet Union.

As for Castro, our failure to take him out when we had the chance (in the early 1960s) created serious foreign policy problems for us for decades. In fact, much of Reagan’s presidency was consumed with battling Castro-supported communist governments in Central America (Nicaragua) and Africa (Angola).

In much the same way, I would suggest that our failure to take out Assad now, when we have the chance, will create serious foreign policy problems for us for decades, and in a region, the Middle East, that is absolutely critical to our national security. And, unfortunately, it will be left to a more serious and sober-minded future president to deal with these problems.

In short, the much-vaunted “moderation” that Noonan cheers is a myth. Don’t laud the “moderation” of the so-called wise men. Instead, rue their ignorance and naivety; and thank God we had a president, Ronald Reagan, who was willing to buck them.

In fact, Reagan’s lesson then applies today. Reagan armed rebel groups to defeat the Soviets

In much the same way, we must arm rebel groups in Syria to defeat Assad and, by extension, Iran. And yes, despite all the loud noises that argue otherwise, there are moderate-minded rebels who are not radical Islamists and jihadists. Part of American grand strategy must be to identify, strengthen, arm, and train these rebels — now.

  • Noonan, like many ill-informed conservatives, doesn’t want to arm the rebels because, she says, look what happened to Egypt: “We threw over a friend of 30 years [Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak] to embrace the future. The future held the Muslim Brotherhood, unrest, and a military coup.”

It is true that democratization in Egypt has not gone well. There are many reasons for this, including unrealistic expectations of people like Noonan. Democratization in Egypt and the Middle East, as I have argued, is a long and messy process that will take decades to achieve.

But more to the point, the United States did not “overthrow Mubarak”; the Egyptian people did that. And Egypt has suffered from a decided lack of American interest and involvement.

In short, the problem in Egypt has not been too much American intervention, but too little. Obama, by his own admission, is more concerned with “nation-building at home” than with conducting a serious and concerted U.S. foreign policy.

Unfortunately, the president is making the same mistake in Syria. But let’s not compound that mistake by having the Congress turn its back on Syria and the Middle East, with a no vote on military intervention there. A no vote will be seen in the eyes of our enemies as a clear and unmistakable sign of American weakness and retreat.

  • Noonan credits Obama for having “determination and guts in getting Osama bin Laden.”

Sorry, Peggy, but our Navy Seals and CIA covert action teams took out bin Laden; and that effort had been initiated long ago by one, George W. Bush.

Indeed, all Obama did was approve an effort begun by his predecessor and presented to him by his military advisers. He would have been seriously derelict had he not approved their plan.

  • Noonan warns that “a Syria strike may become full-scale war.”

My goodness, where has Peggy been? There’s already a full-scale war in Syria, and it’s been going on for a couple of years now.

That war, moreover, is part and parcel of a larger-scale war that the United States has been waging for more than 12 years against radical Islamic extremism.

A new and important front in that war has opened up in Syria, and the question before the Congress is: will we fight or retreat, win or lose? Like Reagan, I want to win. So, too, should all conservatives.

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Why Mitt Might Lose (Hint: It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!)

by John R Guardiano on November 1, 2012

Romney’s Willful Failure to Address Libya May Have Doomed His Chances


Libya remains the most important uncontested issue in the 2012 presidential campaign, and that spells trouble for Mitt Romney.

“Out of these characteristics [of the conflict] a certain center of gravity develops, the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends. That is the point against which all our energies should be directed.”

– Carl von Clausweitz, On War

I don’t want Mitt Romney to lose this election, but if he does, here’s why he’ll have lost it: He never read Clausewitz.

Pace Team Romney, the center of gravity in this campaign is not the economy; it’s leadership — or the lack thereof. Yet, Romney has foolishly adopted James Carville’s mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid” as his own, and thus forfeited any and all opportunities to attack Obama over the Benghazi fiasco and cover-up.

But make no mistake: what Obama did and did not do in Benghazi is emblematic of his entire presidency.

There was the lack of understanding of the problem, a failure to comprehend the threat; the dithering and delay and manifest failures of leadership — nay, the complete lack of leadership! And then the willful denial of reality in the face of all evidence, and the assertion of the primacy of domestic political concerns above all else.

It’s a story we’ve seen play out in this administration time and time again.

Obama’s Record of Failure. The Iranian dissidents? Ignore them. Our allies? Screw them. Our enemies? Appease them. Fracking? Kill it. Coal? Kill it. The Iranian nuclear threat? Play with it.

The budget? Drive over the fiscal cliff. The Bowles-Simpson debt reduction commission? Forget it. Iraq? Also forget it. Afghanistan? Get out of it. Taxes? Raise them. Medicare? Raid it. Entitlement reform? Dismiss it.

And all the while: deny, deny and deny.

It is Obama’s determined refusal to lead, and to address the nation’s very real and serious problems, that makes him an unworthy chief executive officer and commander in chief. And that is why Romney should have devoted his entire campaign to undermining Obama’s pretensions to leadership — from the budget to Benghazi, and from the fiscal cliff to the foreign policy ledger.

But unfortunately, Romney hasn’t done that. He’s largely ignored foreign policy and has completely ignored Libya. He’s thus forfeited the opportunity to make a deeper, broader and more compelling indictment of Obama.

This has been a huge political mistake. It’s not that the American people care deeply about foreign policy per se (though they care more about it than the polls and the pundits suggest). It’s that foreign policy fluency and commitment in a presidential candidate is a proxy for competence and leadership, which voters very much do care about.

Yet, Romney has been campaigning as if the only thing of concern to the American people are jobs and material wellbeing. These are important, to be sure; but economic issues are not as politically determinative and as electorally decisive as Romney seems to think.

The economy, after all, is still growing (albeit anemically); and people can collect unemployment for almost two years (99 weeks). Surely, this helps to explain why so Americans have dropped out of the labor market. In any case, American economic misery and deprivation are not all that severe.

Moreover, since its founding in 1854 by anti-slavery activists, the Republican Party has been concerned with much more than economics. It’s been animated by larger-scale issues and concerns: liberty and opportunity, emancipation from the state, freedom from crushing regulation, victory in our nation’s wars, and cultural integrity and restoration at home.

The GOP’s Lost History. Lincoln, for instance, freed the slaves and restored the Union. Theodore Roosevelt championed the “manly virtues” and a robust U.S. foreign policy. Calvin Coolidge gave U.S. citizenship to American Indians and pushed for anti-lynching legislation. Dwight Eisenhower used covert forces to support liberty abroad and overt forces to protect liberty at home (Little Rock, 1957).

Richard Nixon won in 1968 because he promised to restore law and order at home and peace and honor in Vietnam. And of course, Ronald Reagan won in 1980 in part because of the economy, yes; but equally important was his commitment to defending America against Soviet and Iranian-Islamist aggression. Reagan also inspired millions of socially conservative Democrats through his commitment to life and religious liberty.

His vice president, George H.W. Bush, won Reagan’s third term by running as a cultural conservative who would be no less steadfast in his defense of traditional American values. And Bush’s son, George W., won election in 2000 as a “compassionate conservative” who would harness the power of the state for conservative ends.

Bush was reelected in 2004 because he was perceived as a more resolute commander in chief, and also because culturally conservative voters (in Ohio especially) were motivated by his commitment to defend the institution of marriage from radical legislative and judicial assault.

My point is that economics has never been enough for the Grand Old Party and its supporters; that’s not how we win elections. We Republicans win elections when we successfully weave economic issues into a more elevated program of national renewal and achievement.

That’s why taking Obama to task for his manifest failures of foreign policy leadership is so important politically: Because it confirms for voters that the problem is not simply that Obama was dealt a bad economic hand. The problem is that, whatever hand he’s been dealt, Obama, more often than not, has played it very badly. Simply put, he has failed as a leader.

Yet, Romney never says that.

Sure, Obama agreed to let the Seals take out bin Laden. But the effort to take out bin Laden was a long-standing initiative that began in the Bush administration; it was not a new initiative begun by Obama.

Libya was a new and worthwhile Obama initiative; but as the Benghazi fiasco shows, Libya has failed due to presidential neglect and dereliction of duty. Romney needed to say this, but he hasn’t.

And now, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we have the spectacle of Obama, with Chris Christie’s fawning assistance, pretending to be a leader. Obama recognizes what Romney does not: We Americans elect leaders, not treasury secretaries. And so, leadership, not economic prowess or understanding, is what moves voters.

Strategic Mistakes. Romney may still win this election, and I certainly hope that he does. It may be that whatever strategic mistakes Romney has made have been dwarfed by Obama’s own. But even in victory, no Republican should think that Romney has run a wise or model political campaign, because he hasn’t.

Oh, Romney’s done some things well. His first debate performance was arguably the greatest presidential debate performance that we have ever seen. Romney successfully undermined Obama’s pretensions to leadership and, in so doing, transformed the race.

But ever since that first debate, Romney hasn’t been playing to win; he’s been playing not to lose, and it shows. His momentum has slowed and the race has froze. Romney dropped a winning strategy because he failed to grasp Obama’s center of gravity upon which this election will be decided — not the economy, but leadership.

We’ll find out Tuesday if Romney’s mistake, motivated by extreme and misguided caution, has cost him the presidency. I hope not.


Mitt Romney made a calculated decision in this third debate to soft-pedal his disagreements with Obama, and not to criticize Obama on key foreign policy issues such as Libya.

His calculus was that he’s already won the election; and therefore, the best thing he can do is to appear reasonable, non-threatening, and to play for a tie.

Romney may be right. In fact, after the first debate, I was the first commentator to say that “Mitt Romney just got himself elected president” (by which I meant: the dynamics of the race had been fundamentally, and perhaps irrevocably, altered). But there are two big problems with Romney’s refusal to press his advantage:

First, it is far from clear that Romney has won this election. In truth, the race is a statistical tie, which could go either way depending on unforeseeable events and developments.

Romney’s first debate performance shook up the race and gave him much-needed momentum. Yet, by refusing to attack Obama where he (Obama) is most vulnerable (i.e., Libya), Romney has denied himself the opportunity to build upon that initial success.

Second, presidential debates play a key civic and educational role in American democracy. Yet, by not showing up and not fighting, Romney is cheating American democracy and our civic culture. He is denying the American people the opportunity to learn and to become better informed citizens.

Moreover, should he be elected president, Romney will have a more difficult time securing congressional and popular support for bold foreign policy initiatives (such as intervening in Libya), which he purposely skirted and evaded during the debates.

I hope Mitt Romney is elected president. But I also want Mitt Romney to be a successful president. And success is dependent, in large part, on being candid and forthright with the American people — so that their support is forthcoming when it needed most: on difficult but challenging issues of U.S. foreign policy.

And on that score, I’m afraid, Mitt Romney tonight fell disappointingly short of what his supporters should expect of him.


Let’s hope that Mitt Romney tonight has the courage of Bill Kristol’s convictions, because Kristol sure doesn’t. The Weekly Standard editor, as I noted here last week, rightly argued that this third and final debate will be decisive.

“If Romney can’t win the foreign policy debate, he probably won’t win,” Kristol wrote. “If he can — if he rises to the challenge — he’ll deserve victory, and he’ll probably achieve it.”

Well, that was then then, this is now:

There’s no need for Mitt Romney to flyspeck Barack Obama’s foreign policy record… Romney doesn’t have to mount a detailed critique of various Obama foreign policies. He has to stipulate that all is not turning out as Obama claimed it would, that all is not well in the state of the world…

Romney has to…speak less as a challenger to the current president, less as a critic and a prosecutor of the current president, and more as .  .  . the next president. Romney should appear by Election Day to be more presidential than the incumbent.

Mitt Romney is a combative and competitive man. But his worst moments in the debates were when he became too pettily combative.

His best [moments] were when he briefly stipulated the failures of President Obama’s policies, then pivoted to lay out his own agenda for the nation for the next four years and beyond.

Kristol is completely and utterly wrong here. He’s proposing that Romney sit on a perceived lead and coast to victory. That’s the strategy too many GOP presidential candidates, starting with Thomas E. Dewey, have adopted in the past and the result has usually been the same: They’ve lost!

Make no mistake: Romney’s problem is not that he’s too combative or competitive; just the opposite: His most politically beneficial and rewarding moments have been precisely when he has been combative and competitive. Just ask Newt Gingrich, whom Romney vanquished in the primaries.

Or, better yet, recall the first debate, which Romney dominated and which, as a result, catapulted him to the lead in this election. And pace Kristol, Romney’s worst moments in the se debates were not when he became too “pettily combative.”

Romney’s worst moments in these debates have been when he’s lacked the courage of his convictions, failed to attack Obama, appeared weak and irresolute, and fumbled key policy questions. His mishandling of the Benghazi fiasco in the second debate is a case in point.

Then there’s the isolationist cons, such as my friend, Jim Antle. Jim is worried that by being too much of a hawk, Romney will “bomb the election” (pun very much intended). Well, credit Jim for having a sharp wit and a fine sense of humor, but he’s also wrong.

Sure, the American people have little appetite for any new wars; but they also recognize and support the need for American international leadership. And, at a minimum, that means supporting our friends and allies, and assiduously cultivating new friends and allies.

Yet, Obama has done nothing but alienate our friends and allies, starting with the Israelis and including the Brits, the Poles, the Czechs, the Iranian “Green” dissidents, and everyone across the entire Egyptian political spectrum.

It takes a rare U.S. president who can anger and offend so many allies with so little effort. Romney absolutely should go after Obama for his myriad and manifest failures of leadership.

In short, Romney has no need to apologize for his conservative foreign policy views, nor need he trim his sails. And if he wishes to win this election, he has to stay on offense and take the fight to Obama.

Pretending that he’s already won this election when he hasn’t (the race is a statistical tie, which could go either way) will only cause Romney to lose. Just ask old Tom Dewey.


The Real Mitt Romney

by John R Guardiano on October 18, 2012

At the Al Smith Dinner: superior intelligence, superior wit, and amazing grace.


Did Romney Flub Libya Because He Agrees with Obama?

by John R Guardiano on October 17, 2012

“It’s noteworthy that Romney did not mention Libya in this afternoon’s speech in Virginia,” tweeted Washington Post reporter Philip Rucker.

For “whatever reason,” responded the Washington Examiner’s Byron York, [I] don’t think he feels comfortable with it.”

Indeed, he doesn’t. And the reason Romney doesn’t want to talk about Libya, it seems, is because he essentially agrees with Obama and holds the president blameless for the terrorist attack there.

I know this sounds absurd given Obama’s manifest failures of leadership and penchant for “leading from behind,” but consider what Romney said during last night’s debate:

I think the president just said correctly that — that the buck does stop at his desk, and — and he takes responsibility for — for that — for that — the failure in providing those security resources, and those terrible things may well happen from time to time [emphasis added].

I — I’m — I feel very deeply sympathetic for the families of those who lost loved ones. Today there’s a memorial service for one of those that was lost in this tragedy. We — we think of their families and care for them deeply.

[But] there were other issues associated with this — with this tragedy…

Those other issues concern how Obama responded to the terrorist attack after it happened (belatedly and with little apparent understanding for what transpired and why it occurred).

Romney tried to attack Obama for his weak response to the terrorist attack, but got hung up on whether Obama uttered the precise words “acts of terror.”

And now it seems, after getting beaten badly by Obama on this issue, Romney has decided to ignore Libya altogether until he absolutely must again broach the subject.

The problem with this approach is that it won’t work. Libya is a hot topic right now, in large part because Romney fumbled the question so badly during last night’s debate. And with the third and final debate (on foreign policy) rapidly approaching, Romney will be forced soon to speak anew on this vital topic.

But if he really doesn’t think Obama’s policy of “leading from behind” helped precipitate the massacre in Libya, then there’s not much Romney can and should say.

All of which means that this third and final debate could go very badly for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. Stay tuned.


How Would Reagan Have Handled Candy Crowley?

by John R Guardiano on October 17, 2012

Lessons from the Gipper. New Hampshire, 1980.

There’s been a lot of whining on the Right about how CNN’s Candy Crowley was unfair to Romney. She was. This is true. Crowley was unfair to Romney because she took sides in the debate. She said Romney was wrong and Obama was right re: Libya.

The two candidates were disputing whether Obama had described the massacre in Benghazi as a terrorist attack. Romney said he hadn’t; Obama said he had.

It so happens that Romney had the better of the argument: Obama described the massacre in Benghazi as a “type of senseless violence,” but not a “terrorist attack.”

“He only used the phrase [acts of terror] after talking about the original 2001 9/11 attacks,” explains the Daily Caller’s Mickey Kaus.

Still, it does no good to whine about Crowley’s decision to play judge and jury in this debate. That hardly was the reason Romney lost. He lost because he failed to capitalize on his opportunities to take the fight to Obama.

Why, just imagine if instead of becoming subdued, Romney had seized upon Crowley’s mistake and made an impassioned case against Obama’s dereliction of duty re: Libya.

That, after all, is what another successful GOP presidential candidate once did: He turned a debate moderator’s misdeed into an opportunity to score politically. Would that Romney had done the same.


Romney Lost This Debate, But Not Yet the Election

by John R Guardiano on October 16, 2012

Two weeks ago, after the first debate, I proudly reported that Mitt Romney had just gotten himself elected president. His performance was that good and that impressive.

Well, I’ve never been one to pull a punch, and I’m not going to start now. Here’s the deal: Mitt Romney did not win this second debate. In fact, he lost it, and by a wide margin.

In the first debate, Romney was brimming with confidence, and he dominated; he was on the attack. Tonight, by contrast, it was Obama who was brimming with confidence and on the attack.

Oh, Romney got in some punches; but for the most part, he was on the defensive. And he seemed increasingly deflated and subdued as the debate wore on.

Romney’s most cringe-inducing moment was when he allowed Obama to escape unscathed for his dereliction of duty re: Libya. Obama threw up a veil of emotional rhetoric about how he cared deeply for our diplomats; yet he refused to explain why he denied their request for additional security.

The Obama administration has been engaged in an elaborate cover-up and willful deception and denial re: Libya. Romney should have hit the president hard over this issue. But instead, he seems to have been cowed by the media and foreign policy establishment, which have attacked him (Romney) for criticizing Obama.

It was a significant lost opportunity; and it does not bode well for Romney in the third debate, which focuses exclusively on foreign policy.

If there is a saving grace for the Republican nominee, it is this: He did not lose this debate nearly as decisively as Obama lost the first debate. Equally important, Romney already has a clear and unambiguous debate win under his belt.

For these reasons, this second debate will not prove to be electorally decisive in the way that the first debate was and is. This means that the outcome of the election hinges upon the third debate.

If Romney can again make Obama the issue, if he can again attack Obama for his myriad and manifest failures of leadership, then he will win this election and become our forty-fifth president. And if not, then not: Obama will have four more years to complete his fundamental transformation of America. Shudder at the thought.

Update: Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol agrees. “Obama,” he writes,

may have stopped Romney’s momentum, but it’s hard to believe he reversed it. So we’re likely to have a dead-even race going into the third and final debate Monday night. That potentially decisive debate is on foreign policy. So, after all the talk about how this election was inevitably and only going to be about the economy, foreign policy could well be the tie breaker.

The problem, as Kristol points out, is that Romney isn’t all that confident discussing foreign policy. He seems to lack strong convictions and ideas beyond the platitudinous (i.e., “peace through strength”).

Some conservatives, such as talk radio host Laura Ingraham, argue that it doesn’t matter. This election, they say, won’t be decided on the basis of foreign policy; that’s not what people care about.

But that misses the point. People may not care about Libya per se; but they do care about presidential competence and presidential leadership. They do care if a candidate can assume the role of commander in chief and leader of the free world.

The problem with Romney’s fumbling of the Libya question is that it calls into question his ability to be president and his competence as commander in chief. In that sense, the sum and substance of Romney’s response is less important than the confidence and coherence that underlie his response.

In short, Romney needs to find his voice re: Libya and other pressing foreign policy questions or risk losing this election. And he needs to attack Obama’s foreign and defense policies with the same vim and vigor that he attacks his domestic policies, or again, he will lose.


Obama to Gays and Hollywood: Show Me the Money!

by John R Guardiano on May 9, 2012

Jim Antle has nailed it. “One in six bundlers,” he tweets, “speaks louder than seven of ten African Americans.”

Indeed, the subtext of Obama’s “marriage” announcement today is that candidate Obama is more afraid of losing campaign money from gay donors (and from Hollywood in general) than he is concerned about a possible erosion of support amongst socially conservative black and Hispanic voters.

In fact, it just so happens that Obama has a fundraiser scheduled tomorrow with Hollywood lefties George Clooney, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Barbra Streisand. As the old church lady might say, “How convenient!”

In other words, Obama’s saying, Jerry Maguire-like, Show me the money! And, apparently, he’s gonna get a lot of it: an estimated $15 million in cool, hard cash with which to bash the Republicans.

Originally published at the American Spectator.



Why National Review Should Not Have Fired John Derbyshire

by John R Guardiano on April 12, 2012

What’s worse: ‘dangerous’ or ‘racist’ thinking, or firing a writer for expressing such thinking?

As a private entity, National Review had every legal right to fire John Derbyshire. But let’s not pretend that his dismissal is anything less than a blow to freedom of thought and freedom of speech.

Derbyshire, after all, had been writing for National Review for at least 10 years. He was summarily dismissed on Saturday, though, after he published a controversial article about “the talk that nonblack Americans have, [or should have], with their kids.”

Critics have denounced the article as a “racist screed,” and that certainly is one way to read the piece. Derbyshire references the socioeconomic difficulties that disproportionately affect African Americans. He then cites these difficulties as sufficient reason for non-blacks to avoid, and even to discriminate against, African Americans.

I don’t agree with Derbyshire’s group-centric approach to race relations. I’ve known, served and worked with too many upstanding African Americans — including a young Haitian immigrant U.S. Marine — to harbor any ill will toward blacks. The truth is they are our fellow Americans. And our culture — especially in the arts and the sports and entertainment fields — would be far poorer were it not for their contributions.

In any case, there is, I think, another way to read Derbyshire’s piece; and that is as the exasperation of a man at his wit’s end because of the myriad problems that all of us know destroy the lives of too many African Americans.

For example, in one seemingly cruel passage, Derbyshire writes: “Do not act as the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g.., on the highway.”

Of course, Jesus counseled the exact opposite: Jesus implores us to be the good Samaritan, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and to help the man in distress.

So is Derbyshire the devil for contravening Jesus? No, of course not. He’s human; he’s annoyed; and he’s upset — and for good reason: He’s seen senseless and violent behavior play itself out too often within African American communities. And, to illustrate, he cites one telling anecdote:

A 61-year-old good Samaritan, Quintin Guerrero rushed to help one young black woman after she jumped out of a moving cab in front of Guerrero’s house.

However, reports the Daily News in a piece linked by Derbyshire, Guerrero was stomped to death by the woman he attempted to save and her boyfriend.

In other words, Derbyshire is saying, the breakdown in civilization has become endemic within certain parts of the African American community that no good deed there goes unpunished. So tread cautiously and avoid becoming the victim.

Can anyone dispute that this is true? Sure, we may not share Derbyshire’s conclusion — and certainly I don’t — that blacks should be looked upon as representatives of a dangerous group and not as distinct and often praiseworthy individuals. But can anyone deny the humanity and deep frustration that underlies Derbyshire’s writing?

In short, it is too easy — and all too wrong — to simply dismiss Derbyshire’s provocative piece as a “racist rant.” In point of fact, as even National Review editor Rich Lowry acknowledges, Derbyshire is a “deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer.”

Which is why his dismissal is, I think, so wrong and so misguided.

The hard and difficult truth is that Derbyshire was fired for expressing unpopular ideas — ideas that many people say they loathe and abhor. But the very purpose of the First Amendment is to promote the vigorous exchange of ideas in a free, open and contested market. It is not to preemptively censor or punish people for saying things that people don’t want to hear.

“I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe,” explained the late great Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

In short, bad ideas should be countered with good ideas; and poor thinking should be confronted with better thinking. The consequence of Derbyshire’s piece should have been an outpouring of articles and opinion pieces explaining how and why he erred.

Curiously, though, that hasn’t happened. Instead, we’ve had a much-needed dialogue and debate about race short-circuited by indignant cries of “racism” — as if promiscuously throwing that word about absolves us of our need to think and to argue.

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. And calling people bad names (“racists”) and labeling them with the modern-day equivalent of the scarlet letter won’t do. That tactic has grown old, and that dog won’t hunt. Not anymore. Not after the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and other racial charlatans have rendered the word racist all but meaningless today.

Again, as a private entity, National Review had the legal right to to fire Derbyshire. But in so doing, they flouted the very purpose and intent of the First Amendment, which is to promote, and not squelch, hard-hitting dialogue and debate. And, for a think magazine dedicated to intellectual combat, that is, I think, a mortal sin far greater than any wrong committed by John Derbyshire.

Cross-posted at the Minority Report blog.


Sandra Fluke Is No Fluke

by John R Guardiano on March 7, 2012

Sandra Fluke's congressional testimony has been show to be a gross lie and a deliberate distraction.

The Sandra Fluke brouhaha seems to be dying down; but I would be remiss if I didn’t make two key points about this ridiculous controversy:

First, Sandra Fluke is no fluke. Instead, she is part and parcel of an elaborate left-wing campaign to bait and smear the Right, change the subject, and protect and reelect Obama. And no, this doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy; it simply means there is a strategy.

Contraception, after all, has never been at issue. Americans enjoy free and easy access to contraception; and there is absolutely no one in American politics — including Rick Santorum — who proposes that this change in any way.

What is very much at issue, however — and this is my second point — is religious liberty and individual conscience. That is, will religious institutions (such as the Catholic Church) be forced by the state to prescribe contraception when the longstanding tenants of their faith demand otherwise?

Everything in the American political tradition tells us that the answer to that question is an obvious and resounding no. Our Constitution, after all, expressly protects the free exercise of religion. Problem is the Obama administration disagrees and thus has been trying to force its will upon religious folk.

But rather than debate in good faith, fairly and squarely, the issue of religious liberty, Obama and his minions have decided to create an elaborate sideshow to distract the American people.

Thus we hear about the wholly fictitious “right-wing war on women’s health.” Though in reality, it would be far more accurate to talk of a “left-wing war on religion.”

In any case, do they really think the American people — and American women especially — are that stupid?

Why, apparently they do! And some polling suggests that, as Abraham Lincoln put it, you can, indeed, fool some of the people some of the time. Indeed, according to Politico, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that,

Obama has gained support among white and suburban women. In both groups, the president is up to a 45 percent approval rating from 40 percent in December. Overall among women, approval for the president rose to 54 percent versus 40 percent disapproval. In December, both his overall approval and disapproval among women were 47 percent.

But Lincoln also said that you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. And so, I have got to believe that as women (and men) learn the truth about what Obama is proposing — which is to crush individual conscience and steamroll religious liberty — that they will recoil in anger and refuse to be played for fools. We will see.

UPDATE: Robert Stacy McCain has been covering this issue well, with his characteristic wit, verve and flair. “Since we can’t call Sandra Fluke a ‘slut,’ he asks, “would ‘lying liberal bitch’ be OK?”

Far be it from me to stoop to name-calling as a substitute for argument, but this question is not merely rhetorical. It seems that Sandra Fluke — who is receiving media Martyr of the Month beatification as the Matthew Shepard of ”reproductive rights” — stands accused of makin’ stuff up.

Stacy picks up on a story by the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, who actually did some real reporting on the cost of contraception. McCormack found that, Fluke to the contrary notwithstanding, birth control pills don’t cost a student $1,000 a year. Instead,

Birth control pills can be purchased for as low as $9 per month at a pharmacy near Georgetown’s campus. According to an employee at the pharmacy in Washington, D.C.’s Target store, the pharmacy sells birth control pills — the generic versions of Ortho Tri-Cyclen and Ortho-Cyclen — for $9 per month.

“That’s the price without insurance,” the Target employee said. Nine dollars is less than the price of two beers at a Georgetown bar.

As Stacy says, “WHOA! … Give that man a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.” Or at least charge the rest of the media with professional malpractice.


David Brooks Nails James Q. Wilson, RIP

by John R Guardiano on March 6, 2012

David Brooks has captured James Q. Wilson perfectly, and in a way that no one else has.

As they’re published (and as I find them), I’m gonna continue to excerpt from, and link to, the obituaries to political scientist extraordinaire James Q. Wilson. (See “How James Q. Wilson and the Neoconservatives Saved America’s Cities and Made the World Safe for Policy Conservatism.”)

However, because it is so original, unique and compelling — and because it so perfectly captures the man and his significance — David Brooks’ piece on Wilson deserves special mention.

Wilson, Brooks wisely points out, put questions of character and morality back into the public policy dialogue and debate. And he did this not as some sort of Bible-thumping religious right boogeyman (which haunts the imagination of the Left), but rather as a meticulous social scientist who let facts, logic and reason dictate his conclusions.

“When Wilson wrote about character and virtue,” explains Brooks,

he didn’t mean anything high flown or theocratic. It was just the basics, befitting a man who grew up in the middle-class suburbs of Los Angeles in the 1940s: Behave in a balanced way. Think about the long-term consequences of your actions. Cooperate. Be decent.

That sounds so simple and so easy; but in fact, as Wilson himself readily acknowledged, maintaining civilization and civilized behavior is anything but simple and easy: Because once a community begins to fray and unravel, restoring it can be doubly difficult.

“Wilson lived in an individualistic age,” Brooks writes,

but he emphasized that character was formed in groups. As he wrote in The Moral Sense, his 1993 masterpiece, “Order exists because a system of beliefs and sentiments held by members of a society sets limits to what those members can do.”

One small quibble with Brooks’ otherwise superb piece. He writes that Wilson “did not believe that virtue was inculcated by prayer in schools. It was habituated, [instead], by practicing good manners, by being dependable, punctual and responsible day by day.”

It is true that Wilson was a social scientist and not a theologian. So of course his work was not aimed at promoting prayer and religion per se. But Brooks is wrong to suggest that Wilson was indifferent to the secular effects of transcendental power and belief.

In fact, quite the opposite: Wilson recognized that certain social customs and habits (such as prayer in the public schools) might actually help to inculcate good manners and civilized behavior.

Our moral nature, he wrote in The Moral Sense, “grows directly out of our social nature.” And, in Crime and Human Nature, Wilson cited research studies that showed a correlation between religious belief and inmate rehabilitation.

In short, Wilson typically agreed with the dreaded “religious right,” but for the secular reasons of a social scientist; and that made him an extremely formidable and effective intellectual and political ally. RIP.


Netanyahu Warns of the Inevitable War with Iran

by John R Guardiano on March 6, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a powerful and moving speech before the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) this evening.

The pundits are doing their best to minimize the differences between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But when you read the speeches that both men gave at AIPAC, one thing becomes inescapably clear: Obama and Netanyahu have diametrically divergent views on how to deal with the Iranian mullahs’ quest for nuclear weapons. And so, sooner or  later, this issue is bound to come to a head. Indeed, a war between Iran and Israel may well be inevitable — or so Netanyahu seemed to say. Consider:

“Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever before,” declared Obama.

Because of our work. Iran is isolated, its leadership divided and under pressure. And by the way, the Arab Spring has only increased these trends, as the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime is exposed, and its ally, the Assad regime, is crumbling.

If only there were true, countered Netanyahu (figuratively speaking, I mean. Here’s what the prime minister actually said):

For fifteen years, I’ve been warning that a nuclear-armed Iran is a grave danger to my country and to the peace and security of the world. For the last decade, the international community has tried diplomacy. It hasn’t worked. For six years, the international community has applied sanctions. That hasn’t worked either.

I appreciate President Obama’s recent efforts to impose even tougher sanctions against Iran. Those sanctions are hurting Iran’s economy. But unfortunately, Iran’s nuclear march goes on.

“There is too much loose talk of war,” Obama insisted. And this “has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program…

“For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster,” Obama continued. “Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built…

Sorry, Mr President, but “Israel has waited patiently for the international community to resolve this issue.”

We’ve waited for diplomacy to work. We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer. As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never let my people live under the shadow of annihilation.

Netanyahu went onto passionately dismiss the notion that a military confrontation with Iran would needlessly undermine the Obama administration’s ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

“I’ve heard these arguments before,” he said. “In fact I’ve read them before.”

The year was 1944. Liberal Democrat Franklin Roosevelt was president. The World Jewish Congress had pleaded with FDR to bomb the concentration camps, Auschwitz in particular. FDR refused. His war department blithely told the World Jewish Congress that

Such an operation could be executed only by diverting considerable air support essential to the success of our forces elsewhere… and in any case would be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources…

Such an effort, [moreover], might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.

It was a sad, shameful and shortsighted moment in American history. But Netanyahu wasn’t at AIPAC to shame America. He was here to inform the world that things are different now: “2012 is not 1944,” he explained.

Back then the Jewish state did not exist. And so, the Jews had to depend upon the good offices of countries such as the United States to save them. However, that’s no longer true. Today, said Netanyahu, Israel has “the ability to defend itself, by itself against, any threat.”

Mr. President, he declared, “We deeply appreciate the great alliance between our two countries. But when it comes to Israel’s survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate.”

In other words, Netanyahu is not about to ask for Obama’s permission to strike Iran. Instead, Israel will act when it must; and that fateful and unavoidable decision is near.


James. Q. Wilson, an American intellectual hero, 1931-2012. RIP. Venit, vidit, vicit.

Few academics ever make a genuinely profound or lasting contribution to American public life. Political scientist James Q. Wilson was one of the few. And now, after an amazingly full and productive career, the 80-year-old professor has left us. His phenomenal body of work, though, endures and will long be remembered.

Wilson is most famously known for developing the “broken windows” theory of law enforcement, which literally transformed and saved America’s dying cities. The transformation was especially acute in New York City, which went from  being a cesspool of violent crime to a wondrous haven for families, businesses and entrepreneurs.

I grew up not far from New York City; and my father spent his youth regularly journeying into Manhattan from West New York, New Jersey. Yet, as adults, my parents avoided Manhattan like the plague — largely because of the crime and their realization that the city was dangerous and inhospitable to families.

It took a man named Rudolph Giuliani to change all that.

Of course, Giuliani didn’t act alone. Other courageous urban leaders, such as the city’s transit police chief, William J. Bratton, and police commissioner Howard Safir also saw wisdom in Wilson’s “broken windows” theory.

Wilson’s insight was this: Minor acts of vandalism, such as broken windows, are gateway drugs, if you will, into bigger acts of crime and corruption which soon consume, dominate and ruin a city.

Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars

Wilson’s insight simply and brilliantly explained why New York and other once great cities had fallen into disrepair and ruin.

Today, of course, everyone takes the broken windows theory for granted; but it wasn’t always that way.

Indeed, before Giuliani and other conservative leaders replaced them, our reigning liberal elites forced upon us another idea, now thoroughly discredited — the idea that criminals have to coddled  and appeased, not deterred and punished.

That all changed, as I say, back in the 1990s. But the intellectual groundwork for this change had already been laid by a fearless political scientist named James Q. Wilson — a man unrestrained by politically correct orthodoxy and the cannons of liberalism.

Policy Conservatism. Wilson, in fact, was a conservative. This matters because conservative academics are outnumbered by a factor of eight or nine to one. And they are barely tolerated, let alone celebrated, within the academy. And so, a college or university student looking for a creditable source of modern conservative thought has relatively few resources available to him.

James Q. Wilson was one such resource — a towering and undisputed intellectual giant, whose work cannot be denied by even the most hardcore leftist.

I know because I first read Wilson as college student, in the pages of Commentary magazine, then edited (in the 1980s and ’90s) by the venerable Norman Podhoretz. And he (Wilson) was one of the few real conservative thinkers that I could appeal to and still be taken seriously by my professors.

It helped, of course, that the man was an empiricist, who based his work on real-world evidence, not fanciful and farfetched theories. This made denigrating him particularly difficult because, as Ronald Reagan once put it, “facts are stubborn things.”

Wilson’s ideology also matters because he was integral to a group of formerly liberal social scientists (dubbed “neoconservatives”) who made conservatism intellectually respectable again.  The ranks of the neocons included (and include): Irving Kristol, Thomas Sowell, Edward Banefield, Norman Podhoretz, and Nathan Glazer.

Most of these men have either passed away (Kristol) or faded into obscurity (Podhoretz). Still, all conservatives owe them a tremendous intellectual debt for their pioneering intellectual spadework. The neoconservatives developed, as David Frum observes, “a policy conservatism that was empirical, relevant and useful — and convincing even to those not predisposed to be convinced.”

Here are brief excerpts from some of the obituaries written about James Q. Wilson. May he rest in peace — and may his work long endure.

Commentary editor John Podhoretz:

[Wilson] was this nation’s foremost political scientist, literally the author of the definitive textbook on the workings of American government, a writer of uncommon grace and clarity, and a man who believed more than anyone I’ve ever known in the power of the human capacity to reason to change things for the better…

David Frum:

…In two brilliant books, Thinking About Crime and Crime and Human Nature, Wilson countered the despairing fatalism of law enforcement in the 1960s and 1970s. He argued that it was not first necessary to solve all of society’s other ills—racism, unemployment—before reducing crime. He demonstrated that practicable changes in the behaviors of police and courts could powerfully alter the choices made by potential wrongdoers.

If (as he hypothesized) a relatively small number of criminals committed relatively large amounts of crime, then holding those few criminals in prison longer would substantially reduce the overall crime rate. And so it has proven over the past generation of the swiftest record reduction of criminality in American history…

The Wall Street Journal:

…He was a conservative because he believed that attempts to reorganize or transform the country were something the government does at its own peril, and everyone else’s. Things as they are deserve a presumption of validity, and the risks of unintended consequences are likely to be high.

He had confidence in humanity as moral creatures who acted accordingly most of the time –a theme that occupied him in his later years and informed his outstanding book, The Moral Sense

Stanford Professor Mark Kleiman:

…The things that made Jim special — beyond is massive intellect, wide reading, and graceful, accurate prose — were his generosity of spirit and his deep moral and intellectual seriousness.

At a time when he was very much committed to the Red team, he helped spread my ideas despite what he knew were my strong Blue loyalties. (Unsolicited, he gave When Brute Force Fails, which is largely a rebuttal to Thinking About Crime, its best blurb.)

Jim wanted to get things right, even when that meant acknowledging that he had earlier been wrong: a tendency not common among academics, or among participants in policy debates…

Alan Wolfe, The New Republic:

…At a time when number-crunching and rational choice theorizing held sway in political science, even at Ivy League universities that once seemed to resist such trends, Jim practiced a social science dealing with real world complexities and matters of deep concern to ordinary citizens…

Yuval Levin:

…A big part of the reason for Wilson’s success in changing how we think was the exceptional clarity and elegance of his writing. He wrote great books, but he was especially a writer of great essays — truly a master of the form. Many of the best ones, especially on matters of policy, appeared in the pages of The Public Interest through the years…

Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute:

…Arguably, no social scientist had more influence over American public policy, on topics ranging from deregulation to welfare reform. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush and advised five decades of American presidents.

Pat Moynihan once reportedly told Richard Nixon (who was known for his disdain for intellectuals), “Mr. President, James Q. Wilson is the smartest man in the United States. The president of the United States should pay attention to what he has to say.”

His influence on policy and politics was so vast that it inspired columnist George Will to quip, “To be a political commentator in James Q. Wilson’s era is to know how Mel Tormé must have felt being a singer in Frank Sinatra’s era…”

George Will:

…Elegant in bearing, voracious for learning, eloquent in advocacy and amiable in disputation, Wilson was a prophet honored in his own country by, among various ways, the presidency of the American Political Science Association and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Every contemporary writer about American society and politics knows how Mel Torme must have felt being a singer in Frank Sinatra’s era. Everyone else has competed for the silver medal. Wilson won the gold.

David Brooks:

…Broken windows was only a small piece of what Wilson contributed, and he did not consider it the center of his work. The best way to understand the core Wilson is by borrowing the title of one of his essays: “The Rediscovery of Character.”

When Wilson began looking at social policy, at the University of Redlands, the University of Chicago and Harvard, most people did not pay much attention to character. The Marxists looked at material forces.

Darwinians at the time treated people as isolated products of competition. Policymakers of right and left thought about how to rearrange economic incentives. “It is as if it were a mark of sophistication for us to shun the language of morality in discussing the problems of mankind,” he once recalled…


Sandra Fluke Is No Martyr, and Rush Limbaugh Is No Monster

by John R Guardiano on March 3, 2012

The media are up in arms about Rush Limbaugh because what he says resonates and strikes a nerve. Good for him.

As is his wont, Conor Friedersdorf has taken to lecturing us conservatives about our alleged moral shortcomings. His latest lament is that we haven’t thrown Rush Limbaugh under the bus for calling media/left-wing celebrity Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Prominent and influential conservatives, writes Conor, would never dream of saying such a thing. And yet, when Rush makes this type of remark (as he often has in the past, Conor alleges), conservatives “just stay mum.” And so, Rush remains a “frequently celebrated, seldom criticized figure within the conservative movement.”

Conor finds this “embarrassing”; I don’t.

Politics and public affairs ain’t beanbag, OK? It’s a contact sport. If you enter the arena, then you had better expect to get hit — and hit hard. Otherwise, don’t play this game.

Sandra Fluke is a 30-year-old Georgetown law student, a well connected — and well-heeled — left-wing activist, and she’s nobody’s victim. She’s no “martyr.”

In fact, Fluke knew exactly what she was getting into. As a past president of “Law Students for Reproductive Justice,” reports Robert Stacy McCain, she “evidently enrolled at Georgetown University Law School with the specific purpose of challenging the Catholic university’s policy of denying insurance coverage for contraception.”

Are certain hits beyond the pale and out of bounds? Absolutely. But I don’t think Rush’s comments can be categorized as such, given the full context of his remarks.

“What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her?” Limbaugh said on his radio show on Wednesday.

“It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.”

The conservative radio host continued on to joke, “OK, so she’s not a slut. She’s ‘round heeled.’”

Agree or disagree with Rush, there’s no denying the indisputable logic behind his decidedly non-PC commentary.

Now, Conor’s right about one thing: Rush’s statements here are not ones that I would make. His type of freewheeling, roundhouse humor isn’t always appropriate for the boardroom, the halls of Congress, or even this blog.

But in modern-day America, earthy, rough-hewn jocularity is par for the course. And it only becomes controversial and “embarrassing” when political conservatives are the ones dishing it out. When, though, we’re on the receiving end of the left’s venomous “humor,” that’s OK.

In truth, politics and entertainment (Congress and talk radio), are very different and distinct fields. As such, they adhere to two very different standards, and thank goodness for that.

But what explains the double standard between liberal “humor” (which the media and our cultural guardians say is just fine)  and conservative humor (which they judge “inappropriate”)?

UPDATE: Not surprisingly, Rush has issued a thoughtful and gracious apology to “Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

I say not surprisingly because Rush has always been a better man than his vitriolic critics. Indeed, we will wait in vain for an apology from Bill Maher, Al Franken, Ed Schutlz, and any of the other left-wing smear merchants.

And, unlike them at least, Rush’s commentary is not gratuitous and designed merely for shock value. Instead, there is a rhyme, reason and logic behind his criticism. Mr. Fluke, remember, has been soliciting other people’s money (through insurance subsidies) to sustain her private sexual habits.

Cross-posted at the Minority Report blog.


Thanks to the media and the public schools, many people think this is Abraham Lincoln or one of the American founding fathers. Think again!

Political humorist Frank J. Fleming has a highly amusing piece in the New York Post lampooning the media’s dangerously distorted misunderstanding of the Constitution and of our Bill of Rights  (h/t: Nathan Wurtzel).

A very timely piece this — especially during these perilous times, when the “extreme right wing” is trying — despicably! — to stop the feds from mandating that health insurers provide “free” contraception to privileged and affluent law students such as Sandra Fluke.

…The Bill of Rights looks like it was written by a crazed, right-wing militia member living in an isolated compound. It’s all “Government can’t tell me to do this” and “Government can’t make me do that” and “I want to have guns.”

We need to update this silly, archaic Bill of Rights, which puts all this emphasis on “freedom” with no mention of the much more important “free stuff.” If we don’t act, other countries will make fun of us for it — and who wants to be tittered at by Belgium?

We want a strong government that guarantees us all the things we need, and we should have a new Bill of Rights that reflects that.

I propose that we have a meeting of all the great minds (college professors, A-list Hollywood actors, people who watch “Downton Abbey”) to list everything people need — basics like food, transportation, and smart phones.

The first section — the “free stuff” section — of the new Bill of Rights will guarantee that everyone gets all these essentials. After that can come the “freedom” section of less useful rights that don’t actually give you anything, like freedom of speech (but let’s leave out the one about guns — they’re dangerous; people will shoot their eyes out).

And the brain trust will make it clear that if the “freedom” section ever conflicts with the “free stuff” part, then “free stuff” wins out…

Of course, Karl Marx put it far more eloquently and far more succinctly: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

That’s not in the Constitution — yet. But in time, as we “progress” and become a more “modern” society, I’m sure we’ll get there. Why, thanks to media misinformation and public school miseducation, 42 percent of us believe Marx’s dictum is already part of the Constitution!

Cross-posted at the Minority Report blog.