Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Canada: How did they know we were here, Palin asks as she gazes out of her gigantic billboarded bus that says 'follow us on our website'

The National Post

Sheldon Alberts: Palin seeks privacy for her and 536,971 of her closest friends
By Sheldon Alberts

WASHINGTON: It’s the modern American nightmare – taking your family on a quiet driving holiday to the nation’s historic sites, only to have the whole thing spoiled by a throng of pesky reporters following your every movement.

This is the disaster scenario confronting Sarah Palin as she, Todd and Piper make their way up the East Coast this week to see the sights. The former Alaska governor woke up Tuesday morning to find reporters from Politico, all the big networks – heck, maybe even TMZ – stalking her tour bus, awaiting her next move. Palin has made it very clear she does not want the media tagging along. The only people she told about her One Nation bus tour were the 536,971 followers (and counting) on Twitter and the three million-plus folks who like her on Facebook.

But those ‘lamestream media’ types showed up anyway, causing a frenzy when she arrived on the back of a motorcycle over the Memorial Day weekend at the Rolling Thunder rally in Washington.

The media pack also tracked her every movement at Gettysburg, staking out Civil War memorial sites in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the ex-politician who might just be the next president of the United States, or who might just be playing the journalistic establishment for fools.

Palin is proving to be no easy mark – she managed to keep the media hounds at bay for a while on Tuesday, sneaking out a back way from her hotel, then sending her tour bus off in a different direction while she rode in an unmarked car to the Gettysburg National Military Park.

The venerable Associated Press have been so confounded by Palin’s movements they have taken to officially calling her trip a “secretive tour.”

Of course, it’s no secret at all.

A local Fox affiliate was able to track down the Fox News contributor at the military cemetery. And somehow, Fox late-night host Greta Van Susteren snuck aboard Palin’s bus, where she conferred sympathetically with the former Republican vice presidential candidate about those “crazy” journalists bothering her all the time.

Palin made a couple of things clear. This tour is absolutely not about her, not about her potential presidential campaign and not about getting publicity. But if reporters absolutely insist on following her around, Palin told Van Susteren she was determined to make them earn their pay. Here’s what she had to say to her Fox colleague:

“I know that many in the mainstream media are looking for kind of a conventional, campaign-type tour, and I’ve said from the beginning, this isn’t a campaign tour except to campaign on our Constitution, our charters of liberty. And they want the kind of conventional idea of, ‘We want a schedule, we want to follow you, we want you to bring us along with you.’ I’m like, A) I don’t think I owe anything to the mainstream media. I think that it would be a mistake for me to become some kind of conventional politician and doing things the way that it has always been done with the media in terms of relationship with them. Tell them to come along, and we’ll orchestrate this, we’ll script this and we’ll basically write a story for you, media, about what we are doing every day. No, I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this, and that would include not necessarily telling them beforehand where every stop is going to be. You know, we’ll do a stop, we’ll do a lot of OTRs – off the records. We’ll meet a lot of great Americans – and then I’ll write about that at the end of the day. It’s not about me. It’s not a publicity-seeking tour. It’s about highlighting the great things about America, and the media can figure out where we are going, if they do their investigative work, or they are going to keep, as you put it, going crazy trying to figure out what we’re doing here.”

So there you have it, media. Stay home and read about Palin’s adventures on her Facebook diary. But just leave her alone, already.

From inside the US: Fox promotes Palin's candidacy?

PJ: Every once in a while I find an 'inside the US' report that simply boggles my mind. And since the readers of this blog are from all over the world, I couldn't let this one pass as it gives a glimpse into the workings of the leading cable news station in the US: Fox News. Earlier I posted a revealing expose about the head of the Murdoch empire's Fox New's: its chairman, Roger Ailes. The story painted him as the king of his domain where content on his network is tightly controlled to promote his conservative political agenda and identifies him as the ultimate king-maker in Republican politics. But I'm beginning to wonder if things have shifted at the network. Does everyone follow his direction or is he beginning to follow the direction of Sarah Palin. He built her a studio in her home and she seems to have ultimate freedom to do as she pleases. Can other network personalities claim the same? Is Ailes following her direction now? Is the Network now focused solely on her success? Does she call the shots? Time will tell and it will be interesting to watch the outcome.

Watch for a revealing insight:
The Jewish Daily Forward

Republicans Use Israel To Attract Jewish Voters — And Jewish Money
By Nathan Guttman

Washington — The potency of Israel as a wedge issue for Republicans going into 2012 was on full display when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited a small group of Democrats and Republicans to a first-ever joint meeting at Blair House one day before his May 24 speech to Congress.

During his high-profile congressional speech, Democrats and Republicans rose as one to applaud Netanyahu about 30 times. But at the smaller meeting, what was meant to be a show of bipartisanship ended as a war of words between the heads of the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the newly appointed head of the Democratic National Committee, suggested at the meeting that both parties pledge not to raise the issue of Israel in a partisan manner. But an angry Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC, responded the following day in a letter to Wasserman Schultz that her request, made in front of a foreign leader, was politically motivated.

“I understand that you would like to stifle debate in the Jewish community on these issues, but the RJC believes they are legitimate issues and part of a healthy and vigorous debate,” Brooks wrote.

Tense relations between President Obama and Netanyahu are raising concerns in both Washington and Jerusalem, but for political activists vying for Jewish votes, they could mean a new opportunity to sway the pro-Israel community.

At the recent annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, pro-Israel activists found themselves courted both by Republicans critical of Obama’s Israel policy and by Democratic lawmakers seeking to distance themselves from the president. Democrats have brushed off Republican claims for potential gains in 2012 and pointed to the decades-long history of Jewish support for their party despite repeated attempts by Republicans to make inroads to the Jewish community. But the GOP believes there is a new opportunity for winning over some voters and — no less important — pushing big Jewish donors away from Obama’s re-election campaign.

Republican Ari Fleischer, who was the spokesman for the second President Bush, argued in a panel discussion at the AIPAC conference that even a small shift by Jewish voters, that could be generated by the controversy around Obama’s recent remarks upholding Israel’s 1967 borders, with adjustments, as a basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, could make a big difference for Republicans. According to Fleischer’s calculation, if the Democrats’ 4-1 favorable ratio among Jewish voters drops to 3-1, it could be enough for Obama to lose both Florida and Ohio in the upcoming elections.

Such a shift would depend largely on the AIPAC crowd, a group that has Israel as its top concern when making political decisions. While a majority of AIPAC members and activists, according to a former staffer, are Democrats — as are most members of the Jewish community — strong supporters of the group are more likely to make political decisions based on the candidate’s views on Israel.

Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter for Bush, offered a personal estimate of the American Jewish vote and Israel’s place in it: Only half of Jewish voters see Israel as a major concern, he said, and of these, half are already Republican. For the GOP, he said, “One of four Jewish voters are gettable through the prism of the Israel issue.” He stressed that his estimate was not based on polling data.

Dick Weiland, an AIPAC delegate from Cincinnati, said he was “very concerned” after hearing Obama’s May 19 speech on the Middle East. As he waited to enter his May 24 lobbying meeting, Weiland made clear that thanks to the clarifications made by Obama when he addressed the lobby May 22, all is gone, but not necessarily forgotten.

“I would have liked him not to have said it in the first place,” he said. Weiland did not rule out the possibility that tensions between Obama and Netanyahu will sway his vote come November 2012, and said he is still waiting to see who is running on the Republican side.

“Clearly some will use this moment for partisan political gains,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the NJDC. “The single best thing we can do is get the facts out.”

Harris cited the AIPAC speech that Obama made two days after his speech on the Middle East, in which he raised the significance of the 1967 borders as a starting point in negotiations. In the later talk, Obama emphasized that the these lines would require adjustments that both parties would have to agree on during those negotiations.

Nevertheless, some key members of the president’s own party are choosing to distance themselves publicly from Obama on Israel following his Middle East policy speech. At the AIPAC conference, top Democrats from both chambers took to the stage and rebuked Obama’s message on the border issue. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, in his May 23 address to the lobby, declared, “No one should set premature parameters about borders, about building or about anything else.”

Several Jewish members of Congress issued statements that highlighted their differences with the president regarding the 1967 lines.

Former Rep. Robert Wexler, who until last January represented a Florida district that has a significant Jewish population, said members of Congress should keep in mind that Obama’s move was made to advance peace, not to win a debate. “We should remember that it is easier being a member of Congress or a senator than being the president of the United States,” said Wexler, who now heads the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

For Democrats, the main potential concern as they look ahead to the presidential elections cycle is a lack of enthusiasm among Jewish voters and donors who, according to many estimates, make up more than half of the donations to the party’s candidates. A May 19 article in The Wall Street Journal reported that Jewish fundraisers and donors warned the Obama campaign that the president’s positions on Israel could cost him financial support. But Harris argued that the reality on the ground is different. “Maybe you can find a few people that are not pleased, but the numbers show a different picture,” he said.

One of those few displeased people is Israeli-born TV mogul Haim Saban, one of the biggest individual donors to the Democratic Party. In a May 24 interview with CNBC, Saban said that Obama should do more for Israel. Saban also stated he does not intend to contribute to Obama’s presidential campaign. “President Obama has raised so much money and will raise so much money through the Internet, more than anybody before him. And he frankly doesn’t, I believe, need any of my donations,” Saban said. He added, however, that he’d keep supporting Democratic congressional and senatorial campaigns.

“If there is a smell of tension, the sides will abuse it. No question about that,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

For the AIPAC rank and file, the focus during the policy conference was on issues more than on party identification. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor won more applause than any other politician speaking at the event when he told lobby delegates that the problem with peacemaking was the Palestinian side, not Israel’s refusal to withdraw to the 1967 borders. But Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer got a similar reaction when he, too, challenged Obama’s statement on borders.

“I don’t think what Obama said will change anyone’s mind,” said AIPAC delegate Robert Simon, from Wyndmoor, Pa. Simon, a registered Republican, did not like Obama’s mention of the borders but insisted that it was not a deciding issue for him.

“I didn’t call my rabbi and tell him to condemn Obama from the bimah, which is what some of my fellow congregants did,” Simon said.

Fox New's right wing fear factory

Rolling Stone Magazine

How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory
The onetime Nixon operative has created the most profitable propaganda machine in history. Inside America's Unfair and Imbalanced Network

By Tim Dickinson

An excerpt from a fascinating, extremely well-researched article:

Most striking, Ailes hired Glenn Beck away from CNN and set him loose on the White House. During his contract negotiations, Beck recounted, Ailes confided that Fox News was dedicating itself to impeding the Obama administration. “I see this as the Alamo,” Ailes declared. Leading the charge were the ragtag members of the Tea Party uprising, which Fox News propelled into a nationwide movement. In the buildup to the initial protests on April 15th, 2009, the network went so far as to actually co-brand the rallies as “FNC Tax Day Tea Parties.” Veteran journalists were taken aback. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a news network throw its weight behind a protest like we are seeing in the past few weeks,” said Howard Kurtz, the then-media critic for The Washington Post. The following August, when the Tea Party launched its town-hall protests against health care reform, Fox & Friends urged viewers to confront their congressmen face to face. “Are you gonna call?” Gretchen Carlson demanded on-air, “or are you gonna go to one of these receptions where they’re actually there?” The onscreen Chyron instructed viewers: HOLD CONGRESS ACCOUNTABLE! NOW IS THE TIME TO SPEAK YOUR MIND.

Fox News also hyped Sarah Palin’s lies about “death panels” and took the smear a step further, airing a report claiming that the Department of Veterans Affairs was using a “death book” to encourage soldiers to “hurry up and die.” (Missing from the report was any indication that the end-of-life counseling materials in question had been promoted by the Bush administration.) At the height of the health care debate, more than two-thirds of Fox News viewers were convinced Obama­care would lead to a “government takeover,” provide health care to illegal immigrants, pay for abortions and let the government decide when to pull the plug on grandma. As always, the Chairman’s enforcer made sure that producers down in the Fox News basement were toeing the party line. In October 2009, as Congress weighed adding a public option to the health care law, Sammon let everyone know how Ailes expected them to cover the story. “Let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option,’” he warned in an e-mail. “Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance’ ... when­ever possible.” Sammon neglected to mention that the phrase he was pushing had been carefully crafted by America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s largest lobbying organization, which had determined that the wording was “the most negative language to use when describing a ‘public plan.’”

The result of this concerted campaign of disinformation is a viewership that knows almost nothing about what’s going on in the world. According to recent polls, Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers. They are 12 percentage points more likely to believe the stimulus package caused job losses, 17 points more likely to believe Muslims want to establish Shariah law in America, 30 points more likely to say that scientists dispute global warming, and 31 points more likely to doubt President Obama’s citizenship. In fact, a study by the University of Maryland reveals, ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimization.

read the entire article:

Israel: Republicans using Israel to attract Jewish vote


Republicans using Israel to attract Jewish voters ahead of 2012 elections
The potency of Israel as a wedge issue for Republicans was on full display during Netanyahu's U.S. visit, when what was meant to be a show of bipartisanship ended as a war of words with the Democrats.
By Nathan Guttman and The Forward

Tense relations between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are raising concerns in both Washington and Jerusalem, but for political activists vying for Jewish votes, they could mean a new opportunity to sway the pro-Israel community.

The potency of Israel as a wedge issue for Republicans going into 2012 was on full display when Netanyahu invited a small group of Democrats and Republicans to a first-ever joint meeting at Blair House one day before his May 24 speech to Congress.

During his high-profile congressional speech, Democrats and Republicans rose as one to applaud Netanyahu about 30 times. But at the smaller meeting, what was meant to be a show of bipartisanship ended as a war of words between the heads of the National Jewish Democratic Coalition and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Such a shift would depend largely on the AIPAC crowd, a group that has Israel as its top concern when making political decisions. While a majority of AIPAC members and activists, according to a former staffer, are Democrats — as are most members of the Jewish community — strong supporters of the group are more likely to make political decisions based on the candidate’s views on Israel.

Turkey: Palin's motorcycle ride makes news

PJ: Palin's penchant for making headlines seems to know no bounds. With articles accompanied with photographs of the photogenic politician, the world's media is enjoying an unusual look at American politics with one of the front runners for the GOP nomination. This time dressed in black leather on back of a Harley, Ms. Palin is gracing the covers of newspapers around the world. Not since the gorgeous Mara Rosaria Carfagna of Italy turned the heads of the international press has the world's media fallen over themselves to show an unusual side to politics. It may not be the typical picture of an American presidential candidate but it's really not an 'only in America' phenomena.

Hurriyet Daily News

Palin kick-starts bus tour on back of motorcycle

Sarah Palin rumbled through Washington on the back of a Harley motorcycle as she and her family began an East Coast tour, renewing speculation that the former Alaska governor would join the still unsettled Republican presidential contest.

Wearing a black leather jacket and surrounded by a throng of cheering fans Sunday, Palin and family members jumped on bikes and joined thousands of other motorcyclists on the Memorial Day weekend ride from the Pentagon to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Palin didn't mention politics as she visited with participants, but she smiled broadly when many in the crowd urged her to run. When one man asked her if she was running, she smiled and answered, "Don't know."

Palin, the party's 2008 vice presidential candidate, remains one of the biggest questions for Republicans, who have not yet settled on a frontrunner to challenge President Barack Obama's re-election. While many of Palin's likely rivals have worked to build campaign organizations in early nominating states such as Iowa or New Hampshire, Palin has taken no concrete steps to begin a presidential campaign.

Given Palin's star power, she might be able to wait longer than others. But the clock is ticking, the party establishment isn't happy with its options and one of the earliest tests of campaign infrastructure, the straw poll in Ames, Iowa, is scheduled for August.

Palin showed no hints she would join the field on Sunday although she again demonstrated her ability to build excitement and practice the person-to-person, retail politics that she clearly loves. In heels and black flair slacks, Palin shook hands and posed for pictures with well-wishers.

"How do you wear all this leather and stay cool?" she asked one woman. Palin asked others to show off their tattoos as she took off her own leather jacket and worked her way through a crush of fans, photographers and reporters.

On the windshield of Palin's bike: a likeness of President George W. Bush. Next to it, the words "Miss Me?" And on her hand, the words "justice rolls" were written in smeared ink.

Palin didn't take questions from reporters and, in keeping with her social media strategy, offered her thoughts on her political website. "There's no better way to see D.C. than on the back of a Harley!" Palin wrote. "My family may be used to snowmachines more so than motorcycles."

Aides and advisers to Palin were not releasing a schedule for the trip and refused to offer guidance. Instead, they pointed to the website of Palin's political action committee, which is prominently collecting donations ahead of the end-of-June fundraising quarter.

Palin's trip set off speculation she would visit New Hampshire, the state that holds the first nominating primary and a place Palin hasn't visited since the final days of the 2008 campaign.

Many of Palin's potential rivals were scheduled to visit New Hampshire in the coming week, including another favorite of the anti-tax, libertarian-leaning tea party movement: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was expected to make formal his bid during a noon barbecue on Thursday. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was set to speak at a fundraiser for the state Republican Party. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Obama's ambassador to China - who also rides motorcycles - is spending the weekend working through New Hampshire's rural North Country.

UK: America's pro-Israel lobby

The Economist

The kosherest nosh ever
America’s mighty pro-Israel lobby may be less durable than it looks

BARACK OBAMA was visiting London at the time. Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, was in a Texas hospital with heart trouble. These gentlemen should count themselves lucky they were not there to hear Binyamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu speak to the American Congress on the morning of May 24th. Watching might not have helped their blood pressure. Days after his quarrel over the 1967 borders with Mr Obama, Israel’s prime minister turned in a bravura performance in the absent president’s backyard, earning a score of standing ovations and making it clear that although presidents come and go, Israel enjoys the support of Republicans and Democrats alike on Capitol Hill.

What explains this enduring support? The “lobby”, for a start. This week, as more than 10,000 supporters flooded Washington for the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the lobby strutted its stuff. Mr Obama spoke on the first day of the meeting, before flying off to Europe. On the second day, 67 senators and 286 members of the House joined the 10,000 at the gala dinner—perhaps the biggest kosher nosh in history. On the third, after Mr Netanyahu’s triumph on the House floor, delegates ascended the Hill to conduct more than 500 separate lobbying meetings. Behold, the congressman that keepeth an eye on his Jewish vote shall neither slumber nor sleep.

That Jews count in American politics is not in doubt. They are conscientious voters and a formidable source of campaign financing. Hence the relish with which Republicans pounced on evidence of a rift between Mr Obama and Israel over the 1967 borders. Although the disagreement (insofar as it was not synthetic) was about emphasis rather than substance, Eric Cantor, the (Jewish) leader of the Republican majority in the House, was “very concerned”. Mitt Romney, supposedly leading the race to become the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, proclaimed that Mr Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus”.

So much for politics stopping at the water’s edge. The Republicans would dearly love to turn American policy on Israel into a wedge issue for 2012. But this may well be impossible. For a start, Mr Obama, who at AIPAC promised his “ironclad” support for Israel’s security, has already put America’s money where his mouth is. He has provided what Israel admits to have been unprecedented co-operation on defence, and clamped harsh sanctions on Iran. And even if he could somehow be portrayed as wildly hostile to Israel, the Democrats on the Hill cannot be. Smelling danger, many joined the Republican scolding of the president. Harry Reid, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, did not explicitly repudiate Mr Obama’s reference to the 1967 borders, but made his displeasure plain. “A fair beginning to good-faith talks means that Israel cannot be asked to agree to confines that would compromise its own security,” he said.

More to the point, most Jews vote Democratic, and will probably continue to do so no matter what they think of the president’s attitude towards Israel. In this week’s Economist/YouGov poll, 33% of Americans thought that Mr Obama sympathised more with the Palestinians and only 11% that he sympathised more with the Israelis. Frank Luntz, another pollster, says that most American Jews oppose Mr Obama’s positions on Israel. Nonetheless, he predicts that an overwhelming majority of Jews will vote to re-elect the president in 2012. The explanation for this apparent paradox is simple. Most American Jews support Israel, but most do not care about it enough for it to affect the way they vote. Like other Americans, they are likelier to be influenced by past voting habits—and how they think the economy is faring.

In 2008, 78% of American Jews voted for Mr Obama, mostly because he was the Democrat. That proportion, cautions Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution, “is not Planck’s Constant”. Republicans are tantalised by Florida, a swing state with many older Jewish voters. Yet even there it is hard to see Israel as a decisive issue. Jews may not like Mr Obama’s stance on Israel, but Mr Luntz says that they are also unhappy about the influence of the tea-party movement on Republicans. Sam Abrams, a political scientist at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, cannot see any Republican being capable both of winning the nomination of the party in its current mood and appealing to Jewish voters.

Marrying out, and losing interest

Such trends are reassuring for Democrats. Perhaps surprisingly, it is AIPAC that has less reason to feel assured. This is because the attachment that American Jews feel to Israel is not only too weak, in most cases, to sway their vote. It may also be waning. Steven Cohen of the Hebrew Union College in New York is one of several scholars to say that apart from the Orthodox minority, younger Jews in America show less attachment to Israel than their elders.

Why this is happening is fiercely debated. One theory blames intermarriage; another that the young are alienated by Israel’s policies. Peter Beinart, the author in 2010 of a scathing critique of the Jewish establishment in the New York Review of Books, says that by drifting right and defending whatever Israel does, AIPAC and other leading Jewish organisations have become “intellectual bodyguards for Israeli leaders who threaten the very liberal values they profess to admire.” He says that a Zionism that emphasises Jewish victimhood and allows no empathy for the Palestinians is losing its resonance with younger Jews.

For the present, of course, AIPAC remains highly effective. It still towers over J Street, its doveish rival. Also secure for now is Israel’s standing in the United States. It is, after all, not only Jews who favour Israel over the Palestinians: just ask the evangelicals. As Mr Netanyahu told Congress, a close affinity binds the two nations. But if young American Jews really do turn away from Zionism, or are turned off by it, everything could one day change.

UK: Has Palin's presidential campaign kicked off?

PJ: With the republican field for the presidential nomination firming and Donald Trump dropping out, many American political pundits declared an end to the "silly season". However, that was before Sarah Palin painted her bus with slogans and liberty bells, piled the family inside and took to the highways prior to releasing her all-about-Sarah two hour movie which will premier in Iowa, an important early voting state.

The Independent

Sarah Palin campaign gets a kick-start, but will she run?

By David Usborne, US Editor

Seen until now as amorphous and dull, the field of Republicans positioning themselves potentially to take on President Barack Obama in next year's presidential race was exhibiting some electricity yesterday thanks to a bus, some motorbikes and a certain former governor of Alaska.

While most polls still give front-runner status to the former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who will formally launch his repeat bid for the White House in New Hampshire this Thursday, the eyes of grassroots Republicans and the media were last night on Sarah Palin as she pulled out of Washington DC in a colourfully painted bus for what was advertised as tour of historic sites in the eastern United States.

Ms Palin, who for months has been teasing everyone about her intentions regarding the 2012 race, kicked off the week-long tour with a chaotic appearance at a veterans' motorcycle rally on the Washington mall. It was an intrusion that was not especially welcomed by the organisers.

"She certainly is a major factor," Senator John McCain, who launched Ms Palin into the political stratosphere by choosing her as his running mate in 2008, told Fox News yesterday. But like everyone else, he could not say exactly what she was up to. "Whether she'll even run or not, I don't know," he said.

Even the bus tour retained a degree of mystery yesterday, with no word on its precise itinerary and nothing by way of details on the website that announced it. We do know it will end in New Hampshire and likely stops along the way include the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam.

The website offers a brief audio message from Ms Palin, sounding like someone who wants to run. "We have a vision for our country and it is a vision anchored in time-tested truths," she begins, before offering the Tea Party bromide: "The Constitution provides the best road map for a more perfect union."

Her site also contains several postings from Ms Palin on her favourite topic – the wretchedness of the "lamestream media", as she calls the US press. "Goodness, cleaning up the sloppiness of reporters could be a full time job," one begins.

It is not just Ms Palin's manoeuvrings that has the Republican Party suddenly on alert, however. The Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, on Friday suggested for the first time that he might consider running, despite previously insisting that he wouldn't. His entry, if it comes, would drastically alter the dynamics of the contest. He is deeply conservative and has never lost an election.

"I'm going to think about it," Governor Perry conceded. "I think about a lot of things."

Unsettling the picture further is news that Republican grandees in New Hampshire – which traditionally holds the first of the nomination primaries on the heels of the first caucus-style voting in Iowa – will be cheering Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York, at a fundraising event on Thursday.

Mr Giuliani, who will be the keynote speaker, may thus be thinking of pitching his hat into the ring. If he does so, he will presumably be blocking out memories of his campaign sputtering to nowhere in 2008.

Ms Palin's arrival amid the Harley-Davidson-riding veterans, all members of a charitable organisation called Rolling Thunder, caused the inevitable commotion as reporters and fans crowded to glimpse her. Dressed in black leather and on the back of a bike, she led a contingent heading out of a car park at the Pentagon. Later she set off on her bus to the National Archives to view the Constitution.

"I'm not very appreciative of the way she came in here," remarked Ted Shpak, Rolling Thunder's national legislative director. "If she wanted to come on the ride, she should have come in the back."

The Republican contenders

Tim Pawlenty The former governor of Minnesota was the first mainstream candidate to announce his intentions to run. He may attract support from independents and conservatives, but is seen by some as lacking the toughness to take on Barack Obama.

Mitt Romney A familiar face from 2008, he leads a new Gallup poll of likely runners. Counting against him are his Mormonism and the Obama-like health bill he passed as Governor of Massachusetts. He is unpopular among some Tea Party activists. However he has a solid fund-raising operation that raised $10m in a single day last week.

Newt Gingrich After announcing earlier this month, he has stumbled by criticising his own party's budget proposal and failing to explain a $500,000 revolving line of credit he has had at Tiffany's. His woes in the first week of campaigning were compounded when a gay rights campaigner dumped glitter on him at a book signing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

UK: Is Palin running for President--you betcha!

PJ: As the American media falls all over themselves trying to cover Sarah Palin's magical mystery political tour, one thing becomes apparent: She may call them the "lamestream media" but it's obvious that they've fallen in love with her all over again. Once again, she gets wall to wall coverage for winking and this time hopping on the back of a Harley. She smiles and waves and makes headlines. America's media really can't get enough of her. Is it enough to put her in the WH?

The Guardian

Sarah Palin and the seven dwarves: the Republican presidential nightmare

Is Sarah Palin going to run for the presidency in 2012? There are two big clues: everything she says and everything she does

Like many typical American families, Sarah Palin and her family spent the Memorial Day holiday weekend sightseeing – and kicking off a nationwide bus tour that will presumably culminate in the announcement of her 2012 presidential bid.

Although there remains a scintilla of doubt that Palin will actually go for the Republican presidential nomination, so far there are two big clues that she is running: everything she says and everything she does.

While the rest of America was eyeing the nearest swimming pool and firing up barbecues, Palin was joining a military veterans biker rally in DC – shouting "I love that smell of the emissions!" – followed by an early morning trip to see the Constitution at the National Archives, then a visit to George Washington's house at Mt Vernon, to be followed by a trip to Gettysburg battlefield.

Other than hand out bumper stickers saying "Palin for President", what more she could do? National "listening tours" are a staple of US presidential politics. This time Palin doesn't even have a book or a TV series to promote. That only leaves one thing to sell: her political future.

Palin's "One Nation" bus tour will, according to the scant details on her various outlets, visit "historic sites" and "patriotic events," and travel through New England "in the coming weeks".

Entirely unrelated fact: New England includes New Hampshire, which is the site of the first Republican presidential primary in early 2012.

With the bus tour and hagiographical documentary, I think at this point we can assume Palin is going to run for the Republican nomination, unless tourists at Gettysburg start pelting her with tomatoes (unlikely) or her bus runs over a cute kitten named Mr Mittens live on Fox News (improbable).

I've said it before: Palin would be crazy not to run for the Republican nomination. Just look at the rest of the field. Since evangelicals' sweetheart Mike Huckabee declined to run, the path is clear for Palin on the Tea Party/Christian wing. The three identikit Republican ex-governors running – Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman – squabble among themselves and split the centre-moderate-establishment vote. Palin crushes them all in South Carolina, the traditional Republican bellwether. Game over?

That scenario was sketched out for me by a Virginia Republican who is tepidly backing Romney – "Because there's no one else." He, like a lot of Republicans, is still waiting for a knight on a white horse to sweep into the race, Rick Perry of Texas being the most common name given to the knight, although Jeb Bush is also wistfully mentioned. The trouble is, time is running out and knights are in short supply.

How bad have things got for the Republican party? This bad: Rudy Giuliani is thinking about running. Yes, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who failed spectacularly in his 2008 attempt after a campaign of bungling ineffectiveness.

As two leading candidates, Huckabee and Mitch Daniel, have announced they won't be running, so far the serious part of the GOP field has narrowed down to the law firm of Romney, Huntsman and Pawlenty, which individually or collectively generate little excitement among the grassroots. In fact, an obscure pizza magnate named Herman Cain and perennial candidate Ron Paul are showing more signs of a pulse. Paul retains the libertarian-leaning base that backed him with gusto in 2008, while Cain is the latest breath of fresh air, likely to soon go stale.

Back in 1988 the lacklustre field of Democratic presidential contenders was derided as "the seven dwarfs". They ended up with Michael Dukakis as the party's nominee. The 2012 Republicans go one better in that they have a Snow White in Alaska's former governor, alongside Pawlenty, Huntsman, Romney, Cain, Paul, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum (the last two may as well not bother once Palin enters the contest).

The test as always with Palin is whether she can focus and harness the support she gets from her fanbase. Modern campaigns still rely upon generating enthusiasm – in part to raise money from donors, in part to knock on doors, but most importantly to inspire potential supporters to actually get out and vote in primaries. As the only Republican in the race with rock-star appeal, Palin can do all three. Whether she will or not – well, we'll soon find out.

Update: No sooner have I posted this blog than Real Clear Politics site reveals that Palin's tour will include Iowa, the site of the very first Republican contest in 2012:

Though Palin has insisted that her "One Nation" bus tour – being kicked off from Washington over the holiday weekend – is intended merely to "highlight America's foundation," RCP has learned that the road trip was designed as a test run to find out whether she can execute a decidedly unconventional campaign game plan.

She's running, right?

Israel: Opinion: "Instead of engaging in verbal gymnastics and fiery speeches, Netanyahu should work to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians"



Thanks Canada, but Netanyahu needs Obama
Though Netanyahu convinced the Canadian Prime Minister to support his stand, Obama didn't change his position and neither did the leaders of the European Union.
Haaretz Editorial

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is proud of his diplomatic achievement over the weekend: He managed to influence the concluding statement of the G8 summit in France. Netanyahu lobbied Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and convinced him to oppose a reference to the formula proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama in which the border between Israel and a Palestinian state would be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed corrections.

Harper agreed with Netanyahu that there is no reason to stress the border issue and not other aspects of the Obama plan, including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The G8 makes it statements by consensus, and the Canadian leader's opposition was enough for the U.S. and European leaders to change the wording.

It's nice that Netanyahu found a leader of an important Western country ready to support his pronouncements, after other leaders turned him down. But Netanyahu's lobbying only brought Israel the illusion of success. Obama didn't change his position and neither did the leaders of the European Union. Even after supposedly yielding to Netanyahu's demand, they still believe that Israel should retreat from the West Bank, evacuate the settlements and allow the Palestinians to set up an independent state, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Instead of engaging in verbal gymnastics and fiery speeches, Netanyahu should work to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians and partition the land, as he promised once again in Congress last week. The unnecessary censuring of the international community's position distracts us from the heart of the matter: changing the situation on the ground to end the occupation and provide Israel with a permanent border with an independent Palestine.

Netanyahu finds it easier and more pleasant to hold talks with Western leaders in diplomatic parlors, to indulge forever in public relations and smear the Palestinian leadership than to make vital decisions on Israel's future. Netanyahu forgot, probably, that Israel doesn't need peace with the G8, but with its Palestinian neighbors, and that it must reach out to them instead of digging in behind the claim that there is no partner.

Middle East: Opinion: Netanyahu is not a "partner in peace"

PJ: Many Israeli's do not agree with Netanyhu's handling of peace negotiations despite what people in the US might want to believe.

Al Jazeera


Netanyahu's border war
Israel's refusal to compromise in stalled negotiations shows who the "partner for peace" is not.
By Shlomo Ben Ami

Shlomo Ben Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister who serves as vice-president of the Toledo International Centre for Peace, is the author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: the Israeli-Arab Tragedy.

Binyamin Netanyahu's furious rejection of US President Barack Obama's proposal to use the 1967 borders as the basis for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute - frontiers that he called "utterly indefensible" - reflects not only the Israeli prime minister's poor statesmanship, but also his antiquated military philosophy.

In an era of ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction, and in which the planned Palestinian state is supposed to be demilitarised, why is it so vital for Israel to see its army "sit along the Jordan River"? If such a tripwire is really necessary, why shouldn't a reliable international force carry out that task? And how can hundreds of isolated settlements spread amidst a hostile Palestinian population ever be considered a strategic asset?

Netanyahu should, perhaps, have studied the lessons of the 1973 Yom Kippur war on the Golan Heights before denouncing Obama's idea. When the war started, the first thing the Israeli army command sought was the evacuation of the area's settlements, which Israel's generals knew would quickly become an impossible burden, and an obstacle to manoeuvre, for their troops.

Indeed, the last war that Israel won "elegantly" - in the way that Netanyahu imagines that wars should be won - began from the supposedly "indefensible" 1967 lines.

That is no accident. Israel's occupation of Arab lands in that war, and its subsequent deployment of military forces amidst the Arab population of the West Bank and close to the powerful military machines of Egypt in the south and Syria in the north, exposed it to Palestinian terrorism from the east.

At the same time, occupation denied Israel's army the advantage of a buffer - the demilitarised zones that were the key to the 1967 victory against both Egypt and Syria.

For borders to be defensible, they need first to be legitimate and internationally recognised. But Netanyahu does not really trust "the gentiles" to supply that type of international recognition of Israel's borders, not even when the US is behind him, and not even when Israel today has the most powerful military capabilities in the Middle East.

The son of a renowned historian who served as the personal secretary of Zeev Jabotinski, the founder of the Zionist right, Netanyahu absorbed from childhood his father's interpretation of Jewish history as a series of tragedies.

The lesson was simple: the gentiles cannot be relied upon, for Jewish history is one of betrayal and extermination at their hands. The only remedy to our fragile existence in the diaspora lies in the return to the Biblical "Land of Israel". Our Arab neighbours should never be trusted; hence, as Jabotinski preached, the new Israeli nation must erect an "Iron Wall of Jewish power" to deter its enemies forever.

To be fair, such an existential philosophy was not the right's monopoly. The legendary General Moshe Dayan, who was born in a socialist Kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, was no less a sceptic about the chances of coexisting with the Arabs. A gifted orator, this is how he put it in a eulogy to a fallen soldier in 1956:

"Let us not be deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who live around us. Let us not avert our eyes lest our arms weaken…This is the fate of our generation, this is our life choice, to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down…We are a generation of settlers, and, without the steel helmet and the cannon's fire, we will not be able to plant a tree and build a home."

Yet the same Dayan, who in 1970 said that "the only peace negotiations are those where we settle the land and we build, and we settle, and from time to time we go to war," was forced by cruel reality to admit that the best security to which Israel can aspire is that based on peace with its neighbors.

Eventually, he became the architect of a historic peace with Egypt. His book Are We Truly Condemned to Live by the Sword to Eternity? marked the transformation of the soldier into a statesman.

If Netanyahu is ever to lead a historic reconciliation with the Palestinian people, he should start by endorsing a courageous, almost post-Zionist insight reflected in Dayan's 1956 eulogy. Fully aware of the bitter legacy of Palestinian disinheritance following the 1948 war, Dayan refused to blame the murderers. On the contrary, he understood their "burning hatred".

Unfortunately, Israel today has a prime minister with the mentality of a platoon commander, who nonetheless likes to cast himself as a latter day Churchill - fighting the forces of evil bent on destroying the Third Jewish Temple.

Of course, a great leader must always have a sense of history. But, as the French philosopher Paul Valery put it, history, "the science of things which are not repeated", is also "the most dangerous product which the chemistry of the intellect has ever evolved", especially when manipulated by politicians.

Menachem Begin, a hawkish predecessor of Netanyahu as prime minister, once had the insolence to say to the great historian Yaakov Talmon that, "when it comes to the twentieth century, I am more an expert than you are".

Talmon responded with "The Fatherland is Imperiled" - a pivotal article whose conclusions are as relevant today as they were in 1981. Not until occupation ends, Israel lives within internationally recognised borders, and the Palestinians recover their dignity as a nation will the Jewish state's existence be finally secured.

A version of this article was previously published on the Project Syndicate.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Australia: Clinton urges Pakistan to work with US

Sydney Morning Herald

Clinton treads softly but urges action

ISLAMABAD: The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has warned that US-Pakistani relations had reached ''a turning point'' and called on Pakistan's leaders to take urgent measures against Islamist extremists in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Mrs Clinton, the highest-ranking US official to visit Pakistan since a Navy Seals team found bin Laden hiding in Abbottabad, did not get public pledges of co-operation from the Pakistanis. But she argued that it was in the interest of both countries to jointly pursue terrorists operating from havens in Pakistan. ''We will do our part,'' she said at the US embassy, ''and we look to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead.''

Clinton was joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. The carefully orchestrated diplomatic encounter was intended both to cajole the Pakistanis and reassure them of political support at a time when Congress has threatened to cut economic and security aid. Pakistan has received $20 billion in US aid since 2001.
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Turkey: US and UK reaffirm ties

Hurriyet Daily News

Obama, Cameron reaffirm Atlantic alliance

US President Barack Obama and British PM David Cameron strengthen their alliance by declaring strong mutual agreement on challenges ranging from the Libyan campaign to the Afghan war. The two leaders have also decided to set up a new strategy board to identify long-term economic and security issues facing both nations

U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have rallied behind each other’s approaches on Libya, Afghanistan and the Arab uprisings as Obama’s official visit to London turned from ceremony to politics on Wednesday.

The leaders of Britain and the United States also agreed to set up a new strategy board to identify long-term economic and security challenges facing both nations, officials said. At talks in London, Cameron and Obama agreed that intelligence, defense and diplomatic staff should meet four times a year to discuss their strategic approach.

Obama and Cameron promised a relentless and punishing pummeling of Moammar Gadhafi's forces in Libya, pressing for his ouster. Obama ruled out a deadline for ending NATO's military assault and said it would be over "in a timely fashion."

"There will not be a let-up in the pressure we are applying" on Gadhafi, the visiting president said Wednesday at a joint news conference with Cameron, ahead of an address that Obama was to make to both houses of the British Parliament.

The international community has stepped up both the air campaign and diplomatic efforts against the regime in a bid to break a virtual stalemate between the rebels in the east and Gadhafi, who maintains a stranglehold on most of the west.

Russia's Foreign Ministry called NATO's latest bombings of Tripoli a "grave departure" from U.N. resolutions on Libya that could lead to a further escalation in violence.

"We've been extraordinarily successful in avoiding civilian casualties," Obama said at one point. And he once again ruled out ground forces in Libya. "That means that sometimes we may have to be more patient than people would like," he conceded.

Cameron rallied behind Obama’s views and said: "I would agree that the two key things here are patience and persistence." He said "we're extremely strong together in wanting to see the same outcomes."

In a wide-ranging question and answer session that exposed a disagreement over Mideast peacemaking strategy, Obama and Cameron reaffirmed their joint resolve on Libya. The statements of mutual support came despite complaints among some NATO countries about the reduced U.S. role since NATO took the lead after the initial days of the two-month-old campaign against Gadhafi.

On Middle East peace, Cameron strongly supported Obama's recent speech in which the president explicitly endorsed a return to Israel's pre-1967 borders, along with mutually agreed-to land swaps, as the starting point for peace talks with Palestinians.

That stance from Obama initially angered Israel, although nerves have calmed as Obama emphasized the nuances of his position as representing no departure from the stances of previous U.S. administrations. But differences between the allies emerged on the question of the Palestinians' unilateral pursuit of statehood at the United Nations. Obama strongly opposes the move, as he reiterated Wednesday. European countries have been more open to a statehood bid by the Palestinians, and Cameron declined to commit himself one way or the other.

On Syria, Obama said the U.S. is increasing pressure on Syria's President Bashar Assad and his regime, which has been attacking protesters there.

After hosting an informal barbecue for veterans in the Downing Street garden, the two leaders announced a new taskforce to support the armed forces, in recognition of the two countries' long cooperation on the battlefield.

Highlighting the sacrifices made by U.S. and British troops serving in Afghanistan, they said the taskforce would "build on existing cooperation and share best practices on support to service personnel and their families."

Compiled from AP and AFP reports by the Daily News staff.

Israel: After Obama's speech prompted Netanyahu 's 'no' speech, could the ball be rolling for a Palestinian state?


Netanyahu's 'no' speech could spur a resounding 'yes'
A recent assessment in New York, based on data provided by Palestinians and other Arabs, predicted a majority - 135 of 192 members - voting in favor of Palestinian statehood. After Netanyahu's speech, the majority could climb to more than 160.
By Shlomo Shamir

NEW YORK - If the Palestinian initiative to declare independence in the UN General Assembly in September needed a shot in the arm, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provided it. The list of no's Benjamin Netanyahu proudly and emphatically enumerated on Capitol Hill reconfirmed to the United Nations and the entire international community the motive for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state: the ongoing freeze in the peace process and the lack of dialogue between the parties. The speech, as it was understood in New York, left no likelihood that talks would be renewed in the foreseeable future, and it may have brought the peace process to an end.

The relationship between UN Headquarters in New York and the Republican majority in Washington are at best problematic and at worst openly hostile, as was seen when former U.S. president George W. Bush held office. People close to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and diplomats and pundits in New York, were not surprised at all by the cheers Netanyahu received from Congress.

"It would be no exaggeration to say that every standing ovation Netanyahu received in Congress was like a stab at many a sensitive nerve at United Nations Headquarters," a veteran commentator said.

The secretary general, who usually releases statements and responses quickly, said nothing at all about Netanyahu's speech. His silence stands in stark contrast to his enthusiastic and hasty response following President Barack Obama's speech, which preceded Netanyahu's.

Even if Obama wants to prove to Israel's supporters in Washington that he stands behind his own position - that a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in September would be a mistake - Obama's ability to influence voting patterns in the UN General Assembly is limited. There have been cases when American efforts to influence a vote produced the opposite of the desired result. The most recent example is the vote on a Security Council resolution a few weeks ago against the settlements, considered a humiliation to the U.S. administration. Fourteen members of the Security Council ignored American urging and voted to condemn the settlements, pushing the United States and its veto into embarrassing isolation.

Two Western diplomats gave the same assessment, in separate conversations, of Obama's chances of influencing the outcome of the vote in the General Assembly on Palestinian statehood. The Israeli prime minister did not deal Obama "a good hand" in his speech to Congress, they both said. In other words, Netanyahu offered Obama no good reasons he could use to persuade world leaders to direct their UN envoys to vote against the resolution.

Common wisdom in New York says that the firm and unequivocal positions Netanyahu presented in Congress on issues of disagreement will give UN members who are still waivering, and those who might have abstained, a reason to consider joining the majority that has already decided to support the declaration of Palestinian statehood.

A recent assessment in New York, based on data provided by Palestinians and other Arabs, predicted a majority - 135 of 192 members - voting in favor of Palestinian statehood. Following Netanyahu's speech, the majority could climb to more than 160.

If the United Nations' sense of disappointment in Netanyahu's speech does not dissipate by September - and there will be good souls at the United Nations who will make sure that it does not - the Palestinians will feel more comfortable about giving in to the Arab League's urgings, and about heeding non-aligned countries' advice. They will counsel the Palestinians to add more significant content to their declaration, content that has practical implications with regard to their status at the United Nations.

UK: Is Kermit the Frog a double agent?

PJ: Holy Cow...a made up conspiracy by a right wing author isn't that unusual but this one takes the cake.

The Independent

Sesame Street's pinko puppets brainwash our kids

That's the claim by a right-wing author who says he's exposed a left-wing plot behind some top TV shows

By Guy Adams

The TV series Friends undermined family values; Sesame Street taught ethnic minorities about civil disobedience; Happy Days had a subtle anti-Vietnam subtext; and the 1980s cop show MacGyver tried to persuade pistol-packing Americans that guns are bad. That, at least, is the considered opinion of Ben Shapiro, an investigative author and right-wing columnist who will publish a detailed exposé tomorrow telling how Hollywood producers, writers and actors have been secretly using TV to promote what he calls a "radical" left-leaning political agenda.

Shapiro's book, Primetime Propaganda runs to 416 pages and revolves around comments by 70-odd industry heavyweights who he approached for interviews. The book promises to "profile the biggest names in showbusiness over the past 50 years" and includes a series of "gotcha" moments, in which the architects of the best-watched TV shows of modern times tell how they tried to use the medium of broadcasting to, as Shapiro puts it, "shape America in their own leftist image".

"I was shocked by the openness of the Hollywood crowd when it came to admitting anti-conservative discrimination inside the industry," Shapiro told The Independent on Sunday. "They weren't ashamed of it. In fact, some were actually proud of it."

The book's contents will only add weight to allegations – often aired by conservative Americans – that Hollywood is the exclusive domain of leftie propagandists. Earlier this year, Republicans called for funding cuts to the public broadcaster NPR after one of its executives was secretly taped calling supporters of the Tea Party "racist".

Among Shapiro's most revelatory interviewees is Marta Kauffman, the co-creator of Friends, who recalls how she hired a "bunch of liberals" to run the programme to "put out there what we believe". In 1999, she admitted casting the actress sister of Newt Gingrich, the prominent Republican, to play a preacher at a lesbian wedding because she wanted to annoy conservatives.

"When we did the lesbian wedding, we knew there was going to be some flack," said Kauffman. "I have to say, when we cast Candice Gingrich as the minister of that wedding, there was a bit of a 'fuck you' in it to the right-wing, directly."

Elsewhere in the book, Vin DiBona, the producer of MacGyver, agrees that Hollywood has a liberal bias, saying "I'm happy about it, actually." The cult cop show advanced an anti-gun agenda, he added. "That was the whole premise of the programme, that MacGuyver used his brain power and skill and science, and solved all the difficulties through ingenuity. No Guns, no knives."

Far from being just a comedy about military camaraderie, MASH meanwhile had a pacifist agenda, the show's co-creator and director Gene Reynolds told Shapiro, who said: "We wanted to point out the wastefulness of war."

And, with regard to Happy Days, writer Bill Bickley said he "had a whole subtext" attacking the Vietnam War. "If you really look for it, you can find it."

Shapiro is relatively well known among the conservative commentariat, but believes he was able to persuade so many interviewees to reveal more than was perhaps sensible because they assumed he was a fellow liberal.

"There was a certain amount of stereotyping on their part in granting the interview," he said. "Many probably assumed that with a name like Shapiro and a Harvard Law credential, there was no need to Google me: I would have to be a leftist. In Hollywood, talking to a Jew with a Harvard Law baseball cap is like talking to someone wearing an Obama pin."

The book, published by Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins is perhaps at its most condemnatory whenaccusing the creators of Sesame Street of attempting to brainwash young children. It quotes Mike Dann, one of the show's founding executives, saying it "was not made for the sophisticated or the middle class".

Early episodes featured the character Grover breaking bread with a hippie. Oscar, who lived in a rubbish bin, was supposed to address "conflicts arising from racial and ethnic diversity".

"Sesame Street tried to tackle divorce, tackled 'peaceful conflict resolution' in the aftermath of 9/11 and had [gay actor] Neil Patrick Harris on the show playing the subtly-named 'fairy shoeperson'," notes Shapiro.

As to whether there may be a touch of McCarthy-esque paranoia about his belief that film-makers are planting the seed of socialism in the bosom of America, he adds: "It's not paranoid to speak the truth. Hollywoodites admit openly to messaging their product, and to their scorn for conservative Americans. I'm just reporting what they told me."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Israel: "The illusion to have seen Netanyahu as a ground-breaking statesman"


Don't look to Netanyahu for goodwill or hope
When people try to recall the second Netanyahu episode, perhaps they will be thankful to him for the somewhat comic interlude that he provided from the bloodbath, the wars and the suicide bombings - an interlude during which everyone was preoccupied with rhetoric.
By Doron Rosenblum

Following the rise of Fascism in Italy, the British diplomat and foreign minister, Lord Curzon, met with Benito Mussolini and asked him straight out what his foreign program would be. Mussolini replied emphatically: "My foreign policy is nothing for nothing."

This week, during the series of performances he gave in Washington, virtuoso orator Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrated just how much diplomatic language has developed since those brutal times - how saying "no" has been upgraded from blunt simplicity to an artistic genre in its own right, no less ornamented and ornate than a baroque artwork.

Indeed, as both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have proven, one can say "no" today with so many nuances and inflections that it sounds like an enthusiastic "yes." Persistent refusal can be garnished with so many conditions and reservations that it sounds like gleaming hope and even wins standing ovations.

From this standpoint, there is no contradiction between the stated hopes that Netanyahu's speech to Congress would turn out to be "the speech of his life" and the sense of a missed opportunity that was voiced afterward. On the contrary, one complements the other.

It was indeed "the speech of his life," a creative peak toward which he has climbed with praiseworthy resolution ever since the days of "if they give, they'll get." Anyone who has read his book "A Place Among the Nations" can only appreciate the consistency and clarity with which he has honed his arguments over the years until they had been refined to perfection in his latest performance.

But to feel in the wake of that speech that an opportunity had been missed? That's like being disappointed that a Bernini fountain didn't launch into a sword dance. Just as one should be satisfied with appreciating the artistry and poetry that are sculpted into every fold of every robe and muscle on the statue, so should one be satisfied with the wonder of Netanyahu's vocal nuances, his rhetorical variations, his pleasant bass voice and his juicy accent, like a ripe Virginia peach. But to be disappointed? By what, really?

From the start, it was an optical illusion to have seen Netanyahu as a ground-breaking statesman rather than a mega-lecturer for whom pessimism, disputation, treading water and fatalism comprise the raw materials of his art. And since two sides are needed for this kind of art, Netanyahu and the Palestinians appear to have been sent into this world bound together like Siamese twins.

No one can better point out the Palestinians' twists and turns, their perverted aspirations, their violence than Netanyahu, and there's no one like them when it comes to rejecting him with an almost euphoric revulsion. Each side bolsters the other and scratches the other's back in the same never-ending tango of nothing for nothing, which repeats itself endlessly: Even before Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat had heard the "yes, but," he had already said the "no" that Netanyahu had been awaiting just "in order to prove." And so on.

Generosity? Hope and goodwill on the part of either side? Vision and courage? Let those wait for someone else, for a different period. Perhaps for the Renaissance.

Someday, when people try to recall the second Netanyahu episode, perhaps they will be thankful to him for the somewhat comic interlude of two or three years that he provided from the bloodbath, the wars and the suicide bombings - an interlude during which everyone was preoccupied with rhetoric, history and the length of the applause, with clever linguistic subtleties such as "settlements" versus "settlement blocs," or "1967 lines" with or without the definite article. Especially since experience teaches that every fun period like this one (or like the one prior to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Yisrael Galili and Moshe Dayan amused themselves with the differences between "territories" and "the territories" or "verbal" as opposed to "written" policy ) - like nothingness itself - has a tendency to end suddenly and surprisingly, in a big bang and lamentations.

Middle East: Opportunity to US and Arab world to understand each other

Asharq Al-Awsat

Why American journalists need the help of their Arab colleagues


By Mohamed Younis

As change continues to unfold in the Middle East region, one question still overwhelms the psyche of the average Western observer: Is this the beginning of an Islamist-run Middle East? During my recent visit to the U.S., it was clear this is what leaders, scholars, and policy makers from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles wanted to know. Despite this thirst to know more about the role of Islamists and religious leaders in Middle Eastern countries transitioning to democracy, their voices are nowhere to be found in mainstream U.S. media.

Gallup asked Egyptians, after the revolution, what role religious leaders should play in drafting national legislation “qanoon.” Seven in 10 (69%) said such leaders should play an advisory role while 14% said such leaders should have full authority to make laws. This is a clear indication that Egyptians are not interested in creating a legal system styled after Iran’s Islamic Republic.

For any Arab American, the fear surrounding a role for Islam or religious leaders in governance in the region is nothing new. Interestingly, the regimes now toppled in Tunisia and Egypt were among the biggest proponents of what could be termed the “Islamist masses” theory. This theory argues that where true democracy and self-determination take hold, nations will inevitably adopt a system of governance that range from the Islamic Republic of Iran (at best) to Taliban rule in Afghanistan (at worst). To justify suppressing the aspirations of their own people, leaders often presented themselves as the only stable alternative in countries of strategic interest to Western powers. This approach indirectly fed into the west’s fear of Islam playing a central role in the political life of Arab citizens. A byproduct of such fear-mongering on the part of some regimes in the region and a general fear and unfamiliarity within the U.S. of [Islamic] Shari’a [law] altogether is that there are few, if any, serious attempts by U.S. mainstream media to engage and understand such groups or their agendas, policies, and vision on governance and democracy. During the two weeks I was in the U.S. closely following domestic coverage of developments in the region, I was unable to find one representative of any Islamist movement or prominent religious leader interviewed by any major U.S.-based news source.

Meanwhile, Egyptian journalists, now in a more open and free journalistic environment, are dedicating considerable time and resources in examining the various views and platforms of the several Islamist movements within the country, be it the Muslim Brotherhood or others. Over the past several weeks, dozens of representatives and members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been featured in most major political talk shows discussing their concerns, principles, and political vision for a new Egypt. Many of these interactions highlight the competing and sometimes inconsistent streams of thought within such organizations that break along not only generational but also ideological lines to a greater degree than ever before. However, those who live in the region understand that in the past, support for such groups was not always due to a religious philosophy on governance, but a vote against the status quo. Hamas’ election victory in 2007 was a good example.

By examining Islamist movements and the aspirations of Arabs citizens in depth, we can begin to unpick the role that Islam will play in newly formed governments in countries undergoing a process of democratization. With a changing region, perhaps the time has come for Egyptian and other Arab journalists, to help their Western counterparts overcome the debilitating fear of Islamist viewpoints to provide Western news consumers with a more nuanced, accurate, and in-depth view into such movements.

Today, many journalists in the Middle East are for the first time truly free to explore, the views, countercurrents, and ideologies within organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and others in Egypt. Yet many U.S.-based news organizations are still engaging such movements from a monolithic, distant, and outdated perspective. As such, they are unable to satiate the genuine desire of their audiences to have a more informed outlook on the political realities of a democratizing region.

Mohamed Younis is a Senior Analyst at the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington, D.C.

Middle East: Opinion: US Pakistan strained relationship benefits China

Al Jazeera

Do the China-Pakistan pipeline shuffle
From the Gwadar port complex to fighter jet sales, strained relations between the US and Pakistan are benefiting China.
By Pepe Escobar

China is adamant that the West "must respect" Pakistan's sovereignty.

The message was delivered during Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani's recent four-day visit to Beijing, which celebrated no less than six decades of strategic relations - involving, among other issues, nuclear collaboration and support over the ultra-sensitive Kashmir question.

The Times of India reconstructed the message as a stark warning that: "any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China."

Chinese diplomacy dwells on too much sophistication for such a crude outburst; but even enveloped in red velvet, the message - in view of the non-stop US drone war over Pakistan's tribal areas, not to mention the "get Osama" raid in Abbottabad - was indeed a bombshell.

Whatever the merit of charges that Islamabad helps some Taliban factions - such as the Haqqani network in North Waziristan - the Pakistani politico-security-military establishment has had enough of being treated by Washington as a mere satrapy, or worse, a bunch of punks.

Pakistani popular opinion, from urban centers to tribal areas, roundly abhors Washington's drone war. And even before the Navy SEALS raid to get Osama the sordid Raymond Davis case was configured as the ultimate humiliation.

Davis, a CIA asset, shot two Pakistanis dead in broad daylight in Lahore; an American "extraction team" killed another one who was trying to save Davis from arrest; and then the CIA paid blood money to finally extract Davis out of the country. Sovereignty? What sovereignty?

Strategic ports

There's frantic spin in the US especially among the right that Pakistan must be taught a lesson because it "harbors terrorists". The mighty conceptual leap would be for these righteous, misinformed, armchair warriors to advocate teaching China a lesson.

Gwadar is an ultra-strategic deepwater port in the Arabian Sea, in Pakistani Balochistan, not far from the Iranian border and only 520 km away from the hyper-strategic Strait of Hormuz. Beijing financed close to 80 per cent of the construction of the port via the China Harbor Engineering Company Group. The port is currently managed by Singapore. The lease will end soon - and it will go to China.

Islamabad now wants the Chinese to build a naval base at Gwadar. That will be a monster geopolitical earthquake in a crucial node of "Pipelineistan" as well as the New Great Game in Eurasia.

Sleepy (for now) Gwadar has been building up for years as the key node of the IP (Iran-Pakistan) pipeline, which used to be the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) or "peace" pipeline, before New Delhi got cold feet. For Washington, the prospect of a steel umbilical cord linking Iran and Pakistan has always been anathema.

What Washington wants - and has wanted badly since the Bill Clinton years - is the TAP (Trans-Afghan) pipeline, which then became TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). Even millennial rocks in the Hindu Kush know TAP or TAPI will only be built when the war is over in Afghanistan, with the Taliban an inevitable part of the government.

In this ongoing, epic IP (or IPI) versus TAP (or TAPI) battle, what is never mentioned is that the winner after all may be... China.

New Delhi knows a pipeline crossing Afghanistan is, well, a pipe dream. But still it has not committed itself to IPI - in part because of relentless Washington pressure, in part because it does not trust Pakistan.

China, on the other hand, has already proposed itself for an IP expansion. This means that starting at Gwadar, another pipeline would be built, by the Chinese of course, crossing Balochistan and then following the Karakoram highway northwards all the way to Xinjiang, China's Far West.

Those who have already traveled the spectacular, 1,400 km-long Karakoram highway from Kashgar in Xinjiang, Western China, via the Khunjerab pass to, of all places, Abbottabad in Pakistan, know it for what it is - a graphic example of strategic Sino-Pak collaboration. Further on down the road, Beijing engineering will connect the Karakoram highway with a railway across Balochistan towards Gwadar.

Pakistanis involved with the development of Gwadar love to bill it as the new Dubai. Well, it might as well become Western Hong Kong.

No wonder Beijing's strategic analysts are tasting what could be the geopolitical equivalent of the finest shark-fin soup; the Chinese Navy positioned at the heart of the Arabian Sea, a stone's throw from the Persian Gulf; a great deal of its Middle East oil imports shipped to nearby Gwadar - and then by pipeline or railway all the way to Kashgar; and the Chinese economy profiting from extra gas supplied by Iran and, in a near future, Qatar.

Keep on truckin'

It's not only China possibly winning a crucial "Pipelineistan" chapter plus an Arabian Sea base to add to its "string of pearls" network. In terms of its AfPak vulnerability, Washington may be contemplating a triple X defeat.

For obvious reasons the Pentagon cannot use Chinese or Iranian seaports to supply no less than 100,000 US troops, 50,000 NATO troops and over 100,000 private contractors in Afghanistan - legions of mercenaries included - which dabble in over 400 military bases all across the country. Nearly 80 per cent of this monstrous quantity of supplies transit through Pakistan. And that means, essentially, Karachi.

So one cannot imagine the "kinetic military action" (White House copyright) in AfPak without a non-stop serpent of trucks leaving Karachi and entering Pakistan via Torkham or Chaman every single day.

All the stuff Kabul - and the immense Bagram Air Base close by - needs goes through Torkham, at the end of the fabled Khyber Pass. All the stuff Kandahar needs goes through Chaman, in Pakistani Balochistan, not far from Quetta, where Mullah Omar theoretically lives when he's not being pronounced dead by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon of course could rely on alternative routes such as the interminable Northern Distribution Network (NDN) from Riga in Latvia to Termez in Uzbekistan, which connects via a bridge over the Oxus to Afghanistan. But NDN is not only long but also impractical; it does not allow too much cargo; and the Uzbeks forbid the transport of lethal weapons.

As for the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, that's only for troops coming in and out, and for storage of jet fuel.

The bottom line is that Islamabad knows the Pentagon simply cannot conduct the AfPak war without the Karachi-Torkham (300 trucks/tankers a day) and Karachi-Chaman (200 trucks/tankers a day) routes delivering like clockwork.

So if you break the balls of the Islamabad establishment to a tipping point and Taliban networks will have a free hand at attacking US/NATO convoys to Kingdom Come. Compare it with Beijing acknowledging Pakistan's "contribution and sacrifices in the war against terrorism".

On message

Beijing actively helped Islamabad's nuclear weapons program. Next August, China will launch a satellite into orbit for Pakistan. Roughly 75 per cent of Pakistan's weapons are made in China. Soon 260 Chinese fighter jets will become the core of the Pakistani Air Force.

Even before Beijing delivered the message that Pakistan's sovereignty shouldn't be messed about, the Pakistani military had already delivered their own message.

It concerned that most photographed rotor of the stealth Black Hawk helicopter that crashed beside Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. The Pakistanis threatened they would let the Chinese tinker with it - and that would certainly yield some ace reverse engineering.

It didn't happen. But still they didn't get the message in a Washington whose leeway over Islamabad is a strategic rent that goes basically to Pakistan's military. If the US congress would cut it - threats abound - there's no question Beijing would be delighted to make up the difference.

Washington may still have a sterling opportunity to get the message next month, when the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meets in Astana, Kazakhstan. There's a strong possibility that Pakistan may be enthroned as a full member, upgraded from its current status of observer.

This means, in practice, Pakistan as a member of the still embryonic Asian answer to NATO. An attack on any NATO member is an attack on them all, according to its charter. The same would apply to the SCO. Ladies and gentlemen, draw your conclusions - and start dancing to the sound of the Sino-Pak shuffle.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times . His latest book is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

UK: Obama's message of 'Hope' might be a recipe for Europe

The Economist

The Obama tonic
The American president’s message of hope could be useful in Europe

“YES, we can. Is feidir linn.” Barack Obama’s mantra translates easily to Gaelic, and it had the same electrifying effect in Dublin this week as it did in the United States when he was elected. O’Bama for the day, having discovered a droplet of Irish blood in his global ancestry, the president and his message of hope are the tonic that Ireland, and much of Europe, badly needs.

If a black man can become president in America then, yes, Ireland can surely recover from its crash. Later in London, where he was greeted with the best of British pomp, a regal Mr Obama confirmed that yes, even a reduced Britain can be a really, really special friend to America. And yes, David Cameron can win the war in Libya. His faith that time is running out for Muammar Qaddafi will also sustain President Nicolas Sarkozy of France who, still more than the British prime minister, has made the Libya campaign his own. And by hosting Mr Obama along with the other G8 leaders, Mr Sarkozy wants to show that, yes, he can defy the polls to win re-election next year. Finally, in Warsaw, Mr Obama was due to tell Poland that, yes, it can punch above its weight.

Mr Obama’s trip to Europe was not unconnected with his own quest for re-election next year, if only by stirring the ancestral sensibilities of Americans of Irish and Polish descent. But there was serious foreign-policy business to be conducted as well. Mr Obama realises, like others before him, that the old allies are still the more reliable friends.

One of his tasks is to overcome Europeans’ sense of being treated with disdain. Maybe it is the fate of junior partners to fret about being jilted. But remember how Mr Obama sent back the bust of Churchill that Tony Blair had given George Bush? Or the time he declined dinner with the Sarkozys to have a night out in Paris with his wife? Or his rejection of a tedious US-EU summit in Madrid? Or his wrong-footing of the Poles by abruptly changing America’s missile-defence plans? Or his turning down an invitation to attend the 20th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall? As president, Mr Obama has seemed very distant from John Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”. At least this week he laid claim to a bit of the Kennedys’ Irishness.

In truth, Mr Obama was bound to get a good reception. For all the snubs, real and perceived, he remains popular in Europe (more so than in America). He sounds more “European” than recent American presidents; his latest declaration that settling the question of Palestine must take the pre-1967 borders (with land swaps) as a starting point for talks was hailed by one senior Eurocrat as evidence that “America has moved closer to Europe.”

Mr Obama’s tour comes when the two sides of the Atlantic are contending with the effects of the most acute economic crisis in eight decades. Both halves of the “West” are losing dominance, but the decline feels sharper in Europe. If Europeans once thought they could sacrifice some growth for the sake of more equality than America, many now fear they are being left behind, not just by America, but by new, rising powers. Fragmented into small and medium-sized states, many Europeans feel more exposed to global competition. But their effort to band together in the European Union is under strain. The crisis has exposed the weaknesses of the euro, immigration is challenging the system of open borders and rising Euroscepticism is questioning the very justification for the union. The war in Libya shows how badly even the most martial European states need America’s help.

“At times I feel like a therapist,” says one American official. “I keep having to tell Europeans that things are not so bad.” Indeed, the European ideal sometimes seems more alive in parts of Washington than in European capitals. The Obama administration has repeatedly prodded Europeans to shore up the euro. Hillary Clinton, the American secretary of state, is the biggest believer in the EU’s new but much-criticised diplomatic service.

The economic threat should be spurring America and Europeans to closer co-operation. At the height of the crisis they and others acted to stimulate their economies and save their banks. But now each country must cope with the resulting debts largely on its own (though those near collapse have been rescued).

Western ideals live on

Europeans need not lose heart. They have the economic resources to deal with the sovereign-debt crisis, if they can overcome the political obstacles to harnessing them. They need only look to Nordic states to see that it is still possible to combine strong growth with a high degree of social protection.

There is another reason to hope: look across the Mediterranean at how Arabs are demanding democratic freedoms. Plainly, aspects of the Western model are still attractive. America and European countries have been working for more than two decades to help the transition to democracy in the ex-communist states in eastern Europe. They should now seek to do the same in the Arab world in the coming decades, though it will be much harder. Indeed, given their proximity, and their direct interest in a stable Mediterranean, Europeans should take the lead.

The EU’s oft-derided “soft power” could yet prove useful; a recent Gallup poll found that the EU is more popular (or, at least, less unpopular) among Arabs than America or major European states. The European Commission this week unveiled its plan for a “new and ambitious neighbourhood policy”. It proposes conditional incentives to encourage democracy, including billions in grants and loans, “deep and comprehensive” trade deals for the boldest reformers and regulated migration.

It is not quite the Marshall Plan wanted by some, but it is the right start. It still has to be approved by member states. Can they overcome their exhaustion, self-obsession and defensiveness to embrace the Arab revolutions? Yes, they must.

UK: As Obama promotes the peace process, Netanyahu digs his heels in to prevent it

The Economist

The United States, Israel and the Arabs
You can't make everyone happy
Barack Obama mildly pleased some Arabs, annoyed a lot of Israelis and has yet to bring the prospect of Middle East peace any closer

IT WAS a tricky few days for Barack Obama in his latest bid to please the Arab world in general and, more specifically, to break the logjam between Palestinians and Israelis. By contrast, Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, after frosty talks in the White House and rapturously received speeches to Congress and to the most powerful of America’s pro-Israel lobbies, must have chuckled at having once again—at least in the short run—fended off an American president seeking to prod him more brusquely than usual down the road to compromise with the Palestinians.

In the end, after much brouhaha and hyperbole, there were no real winners: no sign that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would resume; no hint of flexibility from Mr Netanyahu, despite his declared readiness to make “painful compromises” in the interest of peace; no expectation that the Palestinians would talk to Mr Netanyahu under present circumstances; no promises that they would put off their quest for recognition of statehood at the UN General Assembly in September; only tepid praise from the Palestinians for Mr Obama’s statements that antagonised Mr Netanyahu; and, across the Arab world, in European capitals, as well as in doveish circles in Israel itself, general condemnation of the Israeli leader for his cocking a snook at Mr Obama.

In any event Mr Obama’s own speech at the State Department on May 19th was an awkward mixture. Most of it dwelt on the Arab upheavals rather than the Israel-Palestinian tangle. It was the president’s first big statement on the Middle East since his acclaimed speech in Cairo two years ago, when he persuaded many Arabs and Muslims that he was genuinely determined to open a new chapter of friendship after years of toxic mistrust, failed military interventions and stalled efforts to make peace between Israel and Palestine.

This time Mr Obama sought to place America on the side of the reformers, putting democratic values above alliances with dictators. He promised a dollop of cash to help countries such as Tunisia and Egypt along the road to freedom. He reassured the Libyan opposition fighting to overthrow Colonel Muammar Qaddafi that he backed them. He took a swipe at his Bahraini ally, which hosts the American fifth fleet, urging dialogue with protesters rather than repression. He told Yemen’s embattled president to quit. And he asked Syria’s president to “lead that transition [to democracy] or get out of the way.” Mr Obama was notably silent about Saudi Arabia, as though unable to chide so vital an ally for its patent lack of reforming zeal.

But all this was drowned out by what he said about Israel-Palestine, in particular when he told Mr Netanyahu that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps”. The president also advocated first tackling the borders issue and questions of security, such as the demilitarisation of a future Palestinian state, while leaving the hitherto intractable issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees until later. He also said that the recent reconciliation accord between the Palestinians’ two main factions (see article) “raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel”, since the radical Islamist movement Hamas has neither disavowed violence nor agreed to recognise Israel. But he left a possibility for the more moderate Fatah faction to persuade Hamas to change its mind.

Mr Obama’s reference to 1967 seemed to catch Mr Netanyahu on the raw. In fact, previous presidents have mediated on the assumption that any agreed border would roughly follow the pre-1967 one. Bill Clinton’s “parameters” of 2000 suggest that a Palestinian state would encompass 94-96% of the West Bank, with additional compensating land swaps of 1-3%. But no American president had explicitly endorsed the 1967 line before.

Mr Obama had barely finished his speech before Mr Netanyahu, about to take off for Washington, issued a furious statement, widely and promptly echoed across the American spectrum. The 1967 border, he said, was “indefensible”; Israel at its narrowest point, pre-1967, was only “nine miles wide”. Moreover, in contrast to Mr Obama’s proposal that Israeli forces withdrew from the West Bank, he insisted they would remain indefinitely in the Jordan Valley, on the eastern border with Jordan.

A few days later, at a conference hosted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC, Mr Obama sought to soften his 1967 statement. He had not said, he explained, that the border would be the same as before 1967. Because of those swaps, Israel and Palestine would “negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967”. The 1967 line was only a starting point.

Mr Netanyahu later sought to sound a shade more emollient. He would be generous in giving the Palestinians space for a state on the West Bank, though by implication nothing like as ample as suggested by Mr Clinton or even by the Israeli prime minister’s two predecessors. Most of the settlers there and in Jerusalem, whom he numbered at 650,000, would be on the Israeli side of an adjusted border; an indeterminate number of Jewish settlements in “Samaria and Judaea”, his preferred biblical name for the West Bank, would “end up beyond Israel’s borders”—and would therefore, by implication, have to be removed. But Jerusalem would be the undivided capital of Israel, which the Palestinians must recognise as a specifically Jewish state as a precondition for any deal. In other words, if Mr Netanyahu stuck to his verbal guns, a deal with even the most malleable Palestinians, let alone with a unity government including Hamas, would be virtually inconceivable.

Why did Mr Obama risk stirring such bad blood between his administration and Israel’s, to no apparent diplomatic gain and at a time when the pro-Israeli lobby in America, already in pre-election mode, still wields so much clout? Perhaps, in frustration at his failure to advance the peace process, he wanted to put down a marker, warning Mr Netanyahu that he would not tolerate his continuing refusal to give ground on a whole range of issues. Mr Netanyahu’s unwillingness last September to extend a freeze on expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank prompted the Palestinians to pull out of talks only three weeks after they had resumed, to Mr Obama’s intense chagrin. “He really told him, ‘If you give me nothing to work with, America will keep trying to defend you but it will not be enough,’” says Daniel Levy, an Anglo-Israeli former negotiator who works for the New America Foundation, a peacemaking outfit in Washington, DC.

Rarely has the outlook seemed so bleak. On May 13th Mr Obama’s envoy, George Mitchell, resigned in despair. Some say Mr Obama should still, whatever Mr Netanyahu’s objections, lay out a detailed plan of his own and visit Israel to promote it. Perhaps he should suggest indirect talks to explore fresh negotiating possibilities. But no American president seeking re-election can contemplate putting real pressure on Israel—withholding favours at the UN, for instance, or reducing the supply of arms and aid. As things stand, even those who think Mr Obama’s vision of an Israeli-Palestinian compromise is right fear the president may have picked a fight that, in the short run, he was unlikely to win.