01/23/15

Mendacity is Still the State of the Union

By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media

Following last year’s State of the Union address by President Barack Obama, I titled my column “The State of the Union is Mendacity.” It is quite remarkable how little within it would need to be changed to have it apply to this week’s State of the Union. From the recovering economy, to negotiations with Iran, to the containment and defeat of “violent extremism,” to equal pay for women and the need to combat climate change, to a call for a minimum wage hike—there is little difference between the laundry lists presented by President Obama in 2014 and 2015.

But there is a major difference in the political climate.

“The most important omission [in the President’s State of the Union] was the fact that there were 83 fewer Democrats in the chamber this year than the first time he gave a State of the Union speech and dozens less than the number of his fellow party members that were there last year,” writes Jonathan S. Tobin for Commentary magazine. “The historic rejection of both the president’s party and his policies in last November’s midterm elections was treated in the speech as if it had never happened.”

Instead, America was treated to a laundry list of liberal agenda items, right after President Obama first said he would “focus less on a checklist of proposals, and focus more on the values at stake in the choices before us.”

“When we looked at what Obama actually proposed, all we found was a musty laundry list of liberal programs, most of which already got huge boosts in spending and failed to deliver on their promises,” comments Investors Business Daily.

Yet President Obama’s worn-out list was greeted with praise from the mainstream media. NBC Today Show co-host Savannah Guthrie cheered Obama as “displaying renewed swagger in his sixth address to the nation as he outlined a vision for the final two years of his presidency.”

The New York Times said that “It was hardly surprising that a president who expects so little from Congress devoted some of his speech to celebrating the things that he has accomplished against considerable odds.”

“In fact, he seemed so confident you would have thought he had just won another election,” asserted Jonathan Karl of ABC News.

President Obama’s comment that he has “no more campaigns to run” was greeted with applause and laughter, to which he retorted, “I know because I won both of them.”

Rather than pointing to how the 2014 election could be seen as a referendum on President Obama’s failed policies, Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC’s Today Show, asked Vice President Joe Biden whether he saw “that as a moment of disrespect? Was it a symptom of the very pettiness that the President was referring to?” He also salivated over a potential 2016 Biden presidential bid, asking, “You’re known as a guy who can work a room. Boy, are you good at that. Do you think you could work that room, Vice President Biden?” Lauer didn’t ask a single question challenging any of Obama’s claims or assertions from the night before.

While the mainstream media cheer, others have a more critical view of what Tobin calls Obama’s credibility gap “that is as wide as the Grand Canyon.”

“What Obama has delivered is not an address, but a black hole of lies in which each lie clusters next to a dozen more until it is impossible to see the light,” writes Daniel Greenfield. For example, “Obama insists on taking credit for an energy revolution that he battled every step of the way and continues to fight with his Keystone veto threat,” writes Greenfield. “Instead of admitting that fracking and cheap Saudi oil made the difference, he went on touting his solar and wind boondoggles that have cost a fortune.”

President Obama also touted such green energy “successes” in his 2014 address.

“Obama also claims to have beaten Putin,” writes Greenfield. “There’s only one minor problem with that. In the real world, Russia still controls Crimea. While in the unreal world, Obama controls CNN.”

And The Washington Post editorial board concluded the day after President Obama’s State of the Union, that there is a “pervasive disconnect in Western thinking about the regime of Vladimir Putin”—and that “Russian forces, after several weeks of relative calm” had just “launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine.”

President Obama also asserted in his speech that “we’ve halted the progress of the nuclear program” in Iran and “reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.” He then threatened to veto any sanctions bill “that threatens to undo this progress.” He is referring to a likely bipartisan bill calling for additional sanctions if negotiations with Iran fall apart. The idea is to incentivize Iran to make a deal wherein it agrees to end its nuclear weapons capability, but President Obama says that if Congress were to pass such a bill, “the risks and likelihood this ends up at some point a military confrontation is heightened.”

“The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran,” said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez (NJ) the day after the President’s speech.

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column took a look at the claims by the President of having “halted the progress of the nuclear program” and of having “reduced its stockpile of nuclear material,” and gave those claims three Pinocchios, meaning, “Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”

Regarding the President’s refusal to refer to “Islamic” terrorism or extremism, another Democrat took exception. She is Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who is and has been in the Army National Guard for more than a decade. She served a one-year combat tour of duty in Iraq starting in 2004, and a second tour in the Middle East a few years later. Gabbard is the first American Samoan and the first Hindu to serve in the U.S. Congress—now in her second term—representing a district in Hawaii. Gabbard was on Neil Cavuto’s show on the Fox News Channel, and told Cavuto:

Terminology in the use of this specific term is important…last night the President came and talked to Congress about coming to request an authorization to use military force. By his not using this term, Islamic extremism, and clearly identifying our enemy, it raised a whole host of questions in exactly what congress will be authorizing. Who will we be targeting? Who is our enemy? And unless you understand who your enemy is, unless you clearly identify your enemy, then you cannot come up with a very effective strategy to defeat that enemy. So this is what’s giving me great concern as we look specifically at this authorization, but also as we look at this overall issue of how do we defeat this threat of Islamic extremism that’s not just occurring in the Middle East, that isn’t just about this one group called ISIS, or another group called al Qaeda. It’s a much larger war, really, that is as much an ideological war as it is a military war.

Amidst the dangerously conciliatory stance that the President has adopted toward Iran, and the weak military effort to “degrade and defeat ISIL,” the media should praise Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for inviting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress about the growing Iranian threat. Instead, Politico criticizes that “the Speaker didn’t consult with the administration before inviting Netanyahu to address Congress,” and the Speaker is “setting up his most dramatic foreign policy confrontation with President Barack Obama to date.” The speech is scheduled for March 3rd.

Not only is Congress a co-equal branch of government, with the ability to invite whomever they want, but President Obama made the highlight of his last State of the Union executive action—and going around Congress when they won’t comply with his agenda.

“He expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran. Two words: ‘Hell no!’ … We’re going to do no such thing,” said Speaker Boehner.

The Speaker’s move is a show of support for Israel, and the Western leader who, more than any other, faces the daily threat of Islamic jihadist terrorism, and the very real threat of an Iranian regime that has explicitly stated on numerous occasions their plans to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

The White House has already announced that the President won’t be meeting with Netanyahu on that trip, saying that it’s too close to Israel’s election, also slated for March. It will be interesting to see what, if any, pressure the Obama administration puts on Netanyahu to cancel his planned address. Speaker Boehner is betting that Netanyahu has more credibility in this country on Iran and Islamic jihadi terrorism than President Obama does. And there is probably no one who can better speak to these matters with such authority and eloquence.

It should certainly make for a better speech than this year’s policy prescriptions recycled from last year, even if the media were determined to shower President Obama with undeserved, fawning praise for simply showing up.

12/31/14

A Somber View

Arlene from Israel

Very somber, my friends.  The situation in the world is not worrisome – it’s terrifying.  Consider:

In an interview with NPR, President Obama said that Iran could become a “very successful regional power” if it agrees to a nuclear deal.  He said things must move slowly but he wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of opening a US embassy in Tehran before his term ran out.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/obama-iran-could-be-a-very-successful-regional-power/

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WHAT?  There is nothing on the table in negotiations with Iran at the moment that is serious enough to prevent Iran’s nuclear advancement. The Iranians – a threat to the world – are running rings around an eager Obama.

In fact:

“A commander of Iran’s widely feared Basij paramilitary corps has inadvertently confessed that the Tehran regime aims to build up an arsenal of nuclear and chemical weapons.

“Abdul Reza Dashti, the head Basij commander in Bushehr – a city on Iran’s Persian Gulf coast that contains the Bushehr nuclear power plant, one of the regime’s key installations – had been addressing the fight against ‘foreign influences’ in Iran when he made the admission, according to a report by the official news agency IRNA.”

http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/12/29/iranian-paramilitary-commander-reportedly-admits-tehrans-goal-of-achieving-atomic-and-chemical-weapons/

And see this article by Jonathan Tobin, editor of Commentary, on the Iranian situation:

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/12/08/iran-cheating-debunks-biden-kerry-boasts-nuclear-arak/

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Obama is worthless on this because of his own orientation, motivation. But where is everyone else? This is the stuff of nightmares.

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Then, as if there isn’t enough with the Iranian situation to prevent peaceful sleep, there is the on-going situation at the UN Security Council. Not nearly as troubling as Iran, but, yes, troubling, on several scores because of diplomatic implications, not legal ones.

Jordan has submitted a draft PA resolution to the Security Council.

Originally, Kerry had hedged on whether the US would veto such a proposal.  It was clear that he was looking for revisions that would soften its terms, so that he wouldn’t have to veto it.  But what has happened instead is that Jordan strengthened the terms, with the approval of the Arab League.

The current version calls for a complete end to Israel “occupation” within three years, with a Palestinian state to be established within the “June 1967 borders” (sic) and East” Jerusalem to be the Palestinian capital.

http://www.timesofisrael.com/new-palestinian-bid-calls-for-e-jerusalem-capital-just-solution/

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As for “East Jerusalem,” there is no such thing. There is one city of Jerusalem.  What is meant, in actuality, is all of Jerusalem past the Green Line, which includes northern and southern parts of the city as well as eastern. This is sometimes referred to as “Arab Jerusalem.”  It most certainly is not “Arab” today, as there are many Jewish neighborhoods in this part of the city. What is more, the Old City is in the eastern part of the city, as is the Jewish cemetery at Mt. of Olives – the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, with 150,000 Jewish graves.

 

Demographic Map of Jerusalem

Credit: Keep Jerusalem

The division of the city came about at the end of the War of Independence in 1949, when Jordan (illegally) held part of the city, and an armistice line was drawn.  It is the only time in Jerusalem’s 3,000 year history that Jerusalem was divided, and it became “Arab” only because Jordan rendered it Judenrein. Prior to the Jordanian occupation, the heart of Jewish residency was to be found in this part of the city.

Jerusalem will never be divided again.

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And as to “occupation,” my friends, they can use this loaded buzz word all they wish.  Israel is not an occupier in Judea and Samaria.  It is Israel that has legal rights there.  The corollary point to be made here is that the land in no way “belongs” to the Palestinian Arabs. There has never been a Palestinian state.

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The behind the scenes politicking on this resolution issue are convoluted.

At this point Kerry will veto if necessary (the “strengthening” of its terms made this more likely), but he prefers not to.  He had implored Abbas to wait to call a vote until after the Israeli elections on March 17. His reason is infuriating: a fear that what is happening in the UN will push the Israeli electorate to the right.

Abbas said yesterday that the vote would be called in “a day or two.” And the most interesting questions have to do with why Abbas chose to ignore Kerry and move ahead anyway. It’s clear that he’s not afraid to figuratively bite the (US) hand that feeds him – this tells us a good deal about loss of American influence.

I will suggest something that is counter-intuitive on the surface but is actually reflective of the way Abbas has consistently conducted himself: Abbas does not want to win here.  We must conclude this if he is willing to buck the US, secretary of state.  Had he waited, he might have said to Kerry, look, I did as you asked, now don’t veto. Abbas does not want a state, with the concomitant burdens it implies. Nor, I would imagine, does he think he could hold on to a state for more than a week or two before Hamas pushed him out.

Abbas wants to squeeze Israel and garner PR.  Part of that PR involves showing the world how the poor Palestinian Arabs suffer setbacks in their heart-wrenching efforts to achieve self-determination.

Another possible motivation for Abbas: this may give him the excuse to go to the International Criminal Court, something he’s been threatening to do. This remains to be seen – as that too may be just a ploy.

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With this, there is one other factor at play.  The Security Council consists of 15 members: five permanent – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States -and 10 others who rotate every two years.  Only the permanent members can veto a resolution.  For a resolution to pass, nine votes are required.  Right now, Abbas does not have those nine votes.

But here is the catch: The terms of the temporary members is up at the end of the year. As it happens, nations not supportive of this resolution – such as Lithuania and South Korea – will be replaced by nations hostile to Israel – such as Malaysia and Venezuela.  Then the chances of getting nine votes in favor would be greater.  It has been suggested that this would strengthen Abbas’s position – he would be able to say that most of the Security Council is with him because his cause is just even if the US is not.

But Abbas seems bent on not waiting for this transition in membership.  Again, we must ask why.

Since Abbas does not want to win anyway, this may be a way to allow Kerry to save face: he will not have to veto if there are not nine votes in favor.

Commentator Michael Freund, however, has another idea.  He refers to what is going on in the UN as “a diplomatic terror attack.”  No, he agrees, they don’t want to win: What they want is a rationale for “resistance,” since they can say they’ve tried diplomacy and it doesn’t work.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/FUNDAMENTALLY-FREUD-A-diplomatic-terrorist-attack-at-the-UN-386085

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I hope all my readers are still with me.

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Before closing I want to share a couple of painful, but hardly surprising, insights into the true nature of the Palestinian Arabs:

Last year, two Palestinian Arab terrorists who were involved in throwing rocks that killed Asher Palmer and his infant son Jonathan (when the rocks made Asher lose control of his car) were convicted of murder.  This was a much welcome landmark decision.  It was followed recently by a court decision requiring one of the terrorists, Ali Saada, to pay a hefty fine as compensation to the Asher family.

Now Issa Karake, a PA Minister in charge of “prisoner affairs” has complained about this, saying that this delegitimizes “the national resistance against the occupation.” (Emphasis added)

http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=13544

In other words, he approves of killing innocent babies.

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Last Thursday evening, Avner Shapira and his daughter, Ayala, 11, were driving in the Shomron, when a firebomb was tossed at their car.  Avner yelled at his daughter to get out of the car. Had she not, she would have been killed, as it went up in flames.  As it was, she was very seriously injured – with third degree burns over more than half of her body and damage to her respiratory system.

Ayala Shapira

Where does it end?  My thoughts when this happened were murderous, I confess.  This child, whom her mother described as very intelligent in a special way, was on her way home from a special math class.

Her father, who was mildly injured, protested that such attacks are not criminal in nature, but acts of war, and should be treated as such:

We have an enemy who is trying to annihilate us and states this day and night. It’s not the IDF’s fault, rather [it’s the fault of] the security establishment which treats these acts as criminal. Criminals that need to be caught and made to stand trial as if you can stand trial during a war…it is a case of us or them; they want to kick us out of here.” (Emphasis added)

http://www.timesofisrael.com/security-forces-arrest-2-in-firebomb-attack-that-injured-israeli-girl/

Ayala, who was burned in the face, has before her the prospects of months of hospitalization and many surgeries to do reconstruction.

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Within a day or two, the firebomb perpetrators were picked up by the Shin Bet in the Arab village of Azzoun in Samaria.  They are both teenagers, and one, at 16, is under age. They told of hiding in the bushes at the side of the road, waiting for a car to approach, throwing the firebomb and then running back to their village.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4608327,00.html

They will not be handled with sufficient severity, I am afraid – although I always wait to be surprised. It is not clear which of the two actually tossed the bomb.

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Let us circle around for a moment: if Freund is correct about diplomatic terrorism, then the PA loss in the Security Council will be used to strengthen the rationale for the sort of horrors I’ve just described.

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And yet at a bare minimum, Kerry – who will oppose certain UN gambits by Abbas – thinks we should negotiate with the PA, never mind how violent the nature they’ve exposed is. In fact, I believe if he does veto, he’ll then come to Netanyahu and say we have an obligation to sit at the table with Abbas to negotiate since he “saved” us.

See the article below that describes Abbas’s refusal to cooperate with the US last March in an arrangement that would have pressured Israel and moved a “deal” forward.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/mahmoud-abbas-is-again-insisting-on-failure/2014/12/29/6119435e-8f87-11e4-a900-9960214d4cd7_story.html?wpmk=MK0000203

This look at Abbas’s perennial insistence on failure reinforces the speculation that he also wants to fail now in the UN.

But it leaves us pondering what Kerry’s game is, since he KNOWS that Abbas is not truly on board for a two-state deal.  I will leave speculation aside here, but none of this is reassuring in the slightest.

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The good news – this is who we are:

Israel has made the world’s largest per-capita contribution to halt the spread of Ebola in West Africa, Part of the $8.75 million pledge is committed to UNICEF, for care of children stricken with the disease.  In addition, Israel has sent into West Africa fully equipped clinics and medical specialists.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/1.634360

The IDF recently saved the life of a Palestinian Arab baby with heart problems, who collapsed while on the way to Jordan for medical treatment. A medical helicopter airlifted him to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, thereby saving his life.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4608295,00.html

Sometimes it’s not hard to wonder if we are nuts. But I have concluded we most certainly are not.  We can stand proud.