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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: May 2012

The president’s Poland gaffe at the Medal of Freedom award ceremony has got the most attention, but one must also look at what transpired later the same day. After the president finished awarding the Medal of Freedom on Tuesday to various recipients, many of them Jewish, he met privately with a group of Conservative Jewish rabbis and Jewish community leaders. The Israeli paper Haaretz reported that after the president reiterated his concern for Israel’s security, he said the following:

There were some questions directed at the presidents concerning his thoughts on the role of religious leaders in a more civil political dialogue, which then lead to the inevitable question — how does he feels about Israel? Obama joked that Lew always warns him it will get to “the kishkes question.”

“Rather than describe how deeply I care about Israel, I want to be blunt about how we got here,” Obama said, reminding his guests that he had so many Jewish friends in Chicago at the beginning of his political career that he was accused of being a puppet of the Israel lobby.

The answer, as you pause to consider it, reveals the reality of Barack Obama’s world. Let us take the last sentence first.  If anyone accused Obama of being “a puppet of the Israel lobby,” it was the same left-wing friends and black nationalists who supported him when they assumed once he got in office he would be an advocate for the Palestinians. We all know that his friend Rashid Khalidi had publicly expressed just such sentiments, and had stated that he was disappointed that the realities of politics had made Obama, once he became president, turn away from promises Khalidi said he had once made.

There is a reason, after all, why The Los Angeles Times, as Roger L. Simon has often reminded us, has not released the video of what Barack Obama said at the tribute going-away event for Khalidi as he left Chicago for New York City and his position at Columbia University. And of course, later Obama’s pastor in Chicago, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, said that “the Jewish vote, the A-I-P-A-C vote, that’s controlling him, that would not let him send representation to the Darfur Review Conference, that’s talking this craziness on this trip, cause they’re Zionists, they would not let him talk to someone who calls a spade what it is.”

Now let us look at the first part of the president’s statement, about his claim that “he had so many Jewish friends in Chicago.” These “friends,” of course, were the kind of Jews that Peter Beinart praises for being the right kind of Jews who were critical of Israel, rather than the wrong kind that support Israel such as the members of AIPAC. They were Jews like the late very left-wing rabbi whom Obama befriended in Chicago, a man typical of all leftist Jews who support every “progressive” cause at home and save their criticism for the Jewish state they purport to care about — if only it takes steps that might endanger its security, but which the leftist Jews living in the United States believe it must take if it is to have their full support. And of course, his Jewish friends included the likes of Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, the latter who himself came from a very left-wing Jewish milieu.

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Leave it to the New York Times to greet its vast audience of Sunday edition readers with a front-page hit job on Ann Romney. Everyone knows that Mitt Romney’s wife, along with his flock of sons, is one of his greatest strengths. Ann Romney is beautiful, smart, a great campaigner, and an all-around asset to Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency.

So what does the old “paper of record,” as it used to be called before everyone realized it is a left-liberal rag that regularly fails to separate outright propaganda from its news stories, do to tarnish Ann Romney?

It does the only thing possible. Run a story to prove what we already know: The Romneys are rich, they are part of the hated 1% (to use OWS lingo), and Mrs. Romney is someone who engages in a horse sport called “dressage.” Yes, it is so rare that you undoubtedly never heard of it before.

The Times informs us in the second paragraph that the sport attracts “wealthy women” in particular; that the horses who are in it cost “seven figures”; that Ann Romney goes on horse buying trips to Europe; and that Ann and Mitt floated a loan of $250,00 to $500,000 to one Jan Ebeling, Ann’s tutor in the sport and a horse scout.

You get the idea? The Romneys are filthy rich, are not like you and I, and participate in a rare sport that only the “elite” partake in. No down-to-earth ice hockey for them, not to speak of baseball or football.

On Facebook today, Univ. of Chicago professor Charles Lipson, from whom I first heard of the story before opening the Sunday paper, wrote the following quiz:

NEWS QUIZ!!! Really hard one!

FACT: Ann Romney rides horses in a sport called dressage. Some people in Manhattan think it is a sport for rich people.

QUIZ QUESTION: Does The New York Times Sunday edition think the story is:

A)  Trivial and should not appear in the newspaper at all?

B) Mildly interesting and should appear in the Style section?

C) Important and should appear somewhere in the Sunday news sections?

D)  Earth-shattering and should appear on the front page of the Sunday paper with the words “elite,” “expensive,” and “deep-pocketed” prominently featured in the lede paragraph about Ms. Romney?

This is a really hard one.

No peeking at today’s New York Times.

Well, you already know the answer to Prof. Lipson’s quiz.  Reporter Trip Gabriel, if we can call this person a reporter, writes that this little-known sport is part of the Romney family’s “way of life, which they have generally shielded from view.” Get it? They don’t want it out that Ann Romney engages in the elite sport of dressage.

Of course, she was doing this before the campaign, and one can argue that it is hardly relevant to the issues facing the country. Moreover, if the Romneys just wanted to enjoy their wealth and retire and live off their vast savings and profits, Mitt Romney did not have to subject himself to the tiring effort of running for president. Perhaps he might be doing this because he believes he can help the country return to its greatness, and use his expertise and know-how to get our economy in better shape. Such a common-sense conclusion, of course, is something that hardly occurs to whatever editor commissioned this bit of old-fashioned yellow journalism.

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Here’s a suggestion for Memorial Day reading, if you’re going to a beach or simply resting in your backyard enjoying the good weather. Buy the May 28th issue of The New Yorker (yes, I know it usually is knee-jerk leftist when it comes to politics), which features an amazing article by author David Grann called “TheYankee Comandante: A Story of love, revolution, and betrayal.”

Grann’s reportage is so good that you will think you are reading good fiction — either a thriller or an adventure story — except that he is telling the very real story of the late William Alexander Morgan, who, as a young man in his 20s, went off to Cuba in 1957 to fight alongside Fidel Castro and his rebels in the guerrilla army seeking to bring down the regime of Fulgencio Batista, the long-ruling authoritarian and corrupt leader of Cuba. I hope that someone gets this article to Andy Garcia and that this Cuban-American exile actor considers optioning it for a film before someone else does.

There were a few other Americans who fought with Castro, but Morgan was the only one to be awarded the rank of comandante, usually reserved for the likes of Che Guevara, Raul Castro, Huber Matos, and, of course, Fidel himself. Like other naive and idealistic young Americans, Morgan was taken with Castro’s cause, having heard many stories about the ruthlessness and brutality of Batista, especially towards his enemies. He went to fight with Castro, he said, because “the most important thing for free men to do is to protect the freedom of others.”

Two things strike the reader on the very first page of the article. The first is a large photo of Castro applauding Morgan at a Havana meeting in 1959, soon after his victory and the collapse of the Bastista government. The second is the opening paragraph, in which Grann writes about the night in which the now 32-year-old man faced Castro’s firing squad at La Cabana, an 18th century stone fortress overlooking Havana’s harbor. As Morgan stood waiting to be killed, one of Castro’s soldiers yelled out that he should kneel and plead for his life. Morgan answered: “I kneel for no man.” The soldiers then shot him in the knee, forcing him to kneel, before they shot off his head in a blast of gunfire.

What happened between 1957 and Morgan’s execution on the orders of Castro is the story that Grann tells. He describes secret meetings of the CIA and Morgan’s seeming alliance with the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, who was putting together a secret force to murder Castro. He also tells of Morgan’s friendships and alliances with a key member of the Mafia, Dominick Bartone; the secretive head of the International Rescue Committee, Leo Cherne; and other major players in the various efforts to deal with the reality that Fidel Castro and his rebel band had become Cuba’s new rulers.

I do not wish to try to summarize the twists and turns in the story Grann tells. It is also the subject of a  2007 book by Aran Shetterly, Morgan’s biographer. I have not read The Americano, but although Grann gives the author credit as “incisive,” Grann brings the story up to the present, having interviewed Morgan’s children and the  woman he married in a brief guerrilla ceremony, Olga Rodriguez, who fought beside him and was later imprisoned for years by Castro.

If one wishes to gain insight into the living hell that Fidel Castro created in Cuba, look no further than Grann’s article.  Castro, like Adolf Hitler, was given luxury treatment when he was imprisoned for trying to overthrow Batista’s government at an earlier moment, before he took to the mountains with his guerrilla band. While incarcerated, he delivered his famous speech, “History Will Absolve Me,” which was published throughout Cuba — the equivalent of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, also written in a luxury prison given Hitler by the Weimar Republic after his Munich beer hall putsch.

Castro has now been in power for many decades and through the reigns of eight American presidents. It is already clear that history will not absolve Fidel Castro, whose crimes have been thoroughly exposed and with whom the oppressed populace of Cuba are all but fed up. Grann’s readers will learn, perhaps for the first time, what kind of treatment Castro gave his political prisoners when they were thrown into his regime’s jail cells. Not only is there no special status for political prisoners, they are the ones singled out for the worst treatment — forced to live in the kind of conditions you would not wish on your worst enemy. Morgan himself was put in solitary confinement for a month, where he became ill, convinced that the food he was being fed was filled with toxic poison. Later, his food was filled with ground glass.

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Much has already been written about Mayor Cory Booker’s faux pas on the Sunday edition of NBC’s Meet the Press. Appearing on the program as a surrogate spokesman for the Obama campaign, Booker spent the first part of his time in support of the president’s re-election. He told viewers that during Obama’s first term they received a tax cut, that he saved the auto industry while a Romney presidency would have let them fail, and that Obama has put forth a bi-partisan plan for real tax reform. It was standard Obama boilerplate, and Axelrod and company were undoubtedly smiling. Had Romney or a surrogate for his side been on, he could have undoubtedly engaged Booker in an interesting conversation on the relative merit of Booker’s claims.

But then, the bombshell fell. The issue of Bain Capital, the key issue that the Obama team is using to demonize Governor Romney, came up. Undoubtedly, the panel and journalists expected more of the same from the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. And then Booker spoke the words that would come to haunt him:

I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity…this kind of stuff [referring as well to conservative attacks on Rev. Jeremiah Wright] is nauseating to me on both sides.

No one should have been surprised. As the mayor of Newark, a town desperately in need of new business to rebuild a dying city and help it recreate itself, he knows that equity funds invested in potential business is a mechanism for economic growth and jobs. Like Steven Rattner, Obama’s former auto czar and billionaire investor who said as well last week, “Bain Capital’s responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number. It was to create profits for his investors, most of whom were pension funds, endowments and foundations. It did it superbly, acting within the rules and acting very responsibly and was a leading firm. So I do think to pick out an example of somebody who lost their job unfortunately, this is part of capitalism, this is part of life. And I don’t think there’s anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about.” Booker found himself inadvertently making arguments for Romney.

Both Booker and Rattner, not surprisingly, found themselves on quickly delivered team Romney videos meant for broadcast in swing states like Ohio and Wisconsin. Within minutes, a fuming David Axelrod was on the phone, and probably texting a nasty message to Booker that he could read before he got off the air.

Axelrod should not have been very surprised. As TNR’s Alec MacGillis points out, Booker represents hedge fund and equity fund managers in Wall Street who four years ago saw Obama as a New Democrat who stood fast in their corner and who poured a fortune into the Obama campaign. Now they are heavily disappointed in the president, and opposed to the left-wing populism he is now basing his campaign on. For that reason, many of the traditional Wall Street types who flocked to the president’s side in 2008 are now drifting away from him, and towards Romney instead.

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Remember the Trayvon Martin brouhaha? The MSM almost universally concluded that George Zimmerman both stalked and then murdered Martin in cold blood. Many commentators ignored any evidence to the contrary. The geniuses at Slate.com even had a reporter go to the Florida community where Martin was shot and interview some women who claimed to see Zimmerman shoot him in cold blood. They said that Martin was never on top of him and had not been banging Zimmerman’s head on the ground at all.

Now, the Florida district attorney has released 67 CDs of evidence, and made them available to the press. ABC News has for once done the MSM proud, by headlining their story with a bold conclusion: “Cops, Witnesses Back Up George Zimmerman’s Version of Trayvon Martin Shooting.” The network report states:

Two police reports written the night that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin said that Zimmerman had a bloody face and nose, according to police reports made public today.

The reports also note that two witness accounts appear to back up Zimmerman’s version of what happened when they describe a man on his back with another person wearing a hoodie straddling him and throwing punches.

In addition, Trayvon Martin’s father told an investigator after listening to 911 tapes that captured a man’s voice frantically calling for help that it was not his son….

So the district attorney, true to her word at the time of the Zimmerman arrest, told the press that she would be guided by the evidence alone. Now, the only remaining issue is the argument that the prosecutors will evidently make: If Zimmerman had not followed Martin and instead taken the advice of the police to stay put, nothing would have happened and Martin would not have been killed.

But clearly, Zimmerman’s claim that “that he shot Martin in self-defense after the 6-foot tall, 160 pound teenager knocked him to the ground, banged his head against the ground and went for Zimmerman’s gun” is apparently true. It is also true that Zimmerman’s face was bloodied, that his nose was broken as he said, and that previously unreleased photos of the back of his head show severe lacerations.

The witness report released has the witness saying the following:

“He witnesses a black male, wearing a dark colored ‘hoodie’ on top of a white or Hispanic male and throwing punches ‘MMA (mixed martial arts) style,’” the police report of the witness said. “He then heard a pop. He stated that after hearing the pop, he observed the person he had previously observed on top of the other person (the male wearing the hoodie) laid out on the grass.”

ABC News also notes that “the lead investigator on the case, Officer Christopher Serino, wrote that Zimmerman could be heard ‘yelling for help as he was being battered by Trayvon Martin.’”

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It is far too early to know whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will win the presidential election, but the latest polls must not be giving Obama much comfort. The New York Times/CBS poll, one heavily skewed to give the Democrats a bigger margin (surprise, surprise), shows Mitt Romney with a 3-point lead over the president. It is within the margin of error, but it nevertheless reveals Romney quickly widening what was a large gap in the president’s favor.  Sixty-two percent of the respondents said that the economy and jobs were most important to them in deciding who the candidate of their choice should be. In other words, Romney’s lead is due to the belief of those polled that he would be able to deal with producing jobs and improving the economy better than the president.

For the president’s base, his recent announcement in favor of gay marriage was greeted with an outpouring of gratitude. But when asked by the pollsters whether Obama’s support of same-sex marriage would make them more or less likely to vote for him, 26 percent said less likely and only 16 percent said more likely. A strong 57 percent said it would not influence their choice at all. Moreover, 67 percent of those polled said Obama’s announcement was done for political reasons, while only  24 percent thought he announced it because he thought it was right. To put it another way, Obama may have motivated his base, but in terms of the general election, his position has not helped him at all.

As others have noted, including Karl Rove, the cover of this week’s Newsweek, depicting the president with a halo over his head and the heading “The First Gay President,” may very well backfire by turning off the half of the country that is strongly opposed to gay marriage. Moreover, the article by Andrew Sullivan in praise of the president’s decision can easily be discounted since Sullivan is not only  gay himself and a major  advocate of gay marriage, but also a fierce cheerleader for the president.

The poll also revealed that Romney now has the edge in women voters, 46 to 44 percent. Remember that just a few weeks ago, when Rick Santorum was making contraception the issue, all the pundits argued that Romney would lose because he could no longer gain the support of women. And one month ago, the same poll showed the president leading among women by 49 to 43 percent. That is an astounding gain in a short time frame.

All of the above explains why the Democrats are trying to make Romney’s personality, rather than the economy or foreign policy, the issue in the campaign. That is why you will continually hear that Romney is a bully, that he put his dog on top of his car during a vacation trip, and that as head of Bain Capital he caused many to lose their jobs and to suffer. Once a bully,  always a bully.

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The mainstream media has hailed President Obama’s decision to come out in favor of gay marriage, only criticizing him for dragging his feet on the issue. By staying on message and emphasizing the economy, Mitt Romney is trying not to get sidetracked into yet another side issue.

But will the MSM let him do that? Not if they can help it. Yesterday the Washington Post ran a front page story, which extended many pages, depicting Romney as a bully and homophobe via a 50-year-old incident. According to the story, Romney led a group of fellow students from the elite Cranbrook School to cut the long bleach-blonde hair of a quiet student named John Lauber, who later came out as being gay.

Here is the very first paragraph, where reporter Jason Horowitz says Romney “stopped something he thought did not belong” at the school:

Mitt Romney returned from a three-week spring break in 1965 to resume his studies as a high school senior at the prestigious Cranbrook School. Back on the handsome campus, studded with Tudor brick buildings and manicured fields, he spotted something he thought did not belong at a school where the boys wore ties and carried briefcases. John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye, and Romney wasn’t having it.

How, one wonders, does Horowitz know this, since he never interviewed Romney, who has said in a TV interview that he doesn’t even remember the incident? Even if the act took place — and it was ugly and inexcusable despite different cultural mores in that era — is it even relevant to make something that Romney engaged in fifty years ago an issue in the campaign? To ask that is to answer the question. Of course the Post should not have run the story. The sole reason for it is to depict Romney in an unsympathetic manner.

Scores of people can recall things they did in high school that they deeply regret. Indeed, incidents in which I was the victim in summer camp traumatized me, and I recall myself engaging in similar actions against other campers in order to get in with the group and not make myself an outcast. (Yes, I am being more than vague here about what happened, but I still recall the incident in question.) I grew up. I am not the same person I was over fifty years ago, and certainly Mitt Romney is not either.

The story goes on to put Romney down in other ways. Readers learn that he was proud of his family’s wealth, looked down on those who were scholarship students, and was “bowled over by the wealth of some of his friends,” particularly diplomat Max Fisher, who had a home movie theater with numbered seats in his house. You get the idea? Mitt Romney is not your average Joe, and he does not care for the working stiff. You know, the exact group of swing voters that had become Reagan Democrats and that the Republicans need to get back to their ticket come November.

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If you want to know what is wrong with academia and its devotion to political correctness, look no further than the scandal brewing over a recent action of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the important weekly newspaper of the entire higher education establishment.

The Chronicle has a regular blog by various contributors, all of whom are supposed to use their contributions to discuss their take on issues considered by the academy. One of their regular bloggers was the conservative writer Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of a book about the failures of higher education. It was because of her critical outspoken views that she was obviously chosen to be one of the paper’s opinion bloggers.

But this time, Riley supposedly overstepped the boundaries of permissible opinion. Last week, she wrote an entry opposed to the institution of black studies in the university curriculum. Here is Riley’s judgment about black studies departments:

If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.

Riley went on to point out some of the absurdities appearing in the field of black studies. They include such gems as a thesis about the omission in studies of natural childbirth of black women’s experience giving birth, of the horrors of the federal government supporting single family homes for blacks in the 1970s, and a thesis about how conservative African Americans attack civil rights even though the role they have attained in society is due to the very programs they criticize. Riley wrote the following comment about the latter:

The assault on civil rights? Because they don’t favor affirmative action they are assaulting civil rights? Because they believe there are some fundamental problems in black culture that cannot be blamed on white people they are assaulting civil rights?

Noting that there were legitimate problems to address about the plight facing the black community today, Riley argued that they were not being addressed in black studies departments. Instead, she argued, all they want to do is engage in arguments that blame everything on the white man.

The result of Riley’s article — again, her opinion — was an avalanche of protest to the Chronicle’s letters section. The editors told readers that they received “thousands” of protests. That means, of course, that Riley hit a real sore spot. In a note to readers, editor Liz McMillen announced that the article “did not conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone that you expect from us,” and that Riley’s piece did not meet the “basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.”

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I cannot let this day pass without noting the death of one of Central America’s greatest tyrants, Tomás Borge. The obituary notice in today’s New York Times hardly lets readers know the kind of moral monster that Borge was. Perhaps the mourning by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro is enough to let people understand how vile he was.

Borge was one of the original group of Sandinista rebels who had been imprisoned by the authoritarian ruler of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza. He had been in prison for one year when in 1978 a raid by Sandinista troops (disguised in Nicaraguan army uniforms) seized the National Palace and held the leaders of Somoza’s regime hostage. The government gave into the raiders’ demands, released fifty of those they had incarcerated, paid the FSLN (the initials of the Sandinista National Liberation Front) a half million dollars in ransom money, and provided a plane to fly them out of the country to safety.

In 1979, Somoza fled and the Sandinistas took power, at first hiding their true intent and putting into office a coalition junta composed of non-Sandinista opponents of the old regime but in which their movement had a majority. The coalition collapsed, and the government was then run by the so–called commandantes of the revolution, who formed a new government intent on imposing a communist regime according to the classic Marxism-Leninism in which they believed.

The moderate junta the Sandinistas first put in place was meant as a fig leaf to give them time to build the kind of regime they preferred. The pressure from the new Reagan administration forced them, Borge said, “independently from our will, to develop political pluralism and a mixed economy.” That, he noted, was but a tactic, which had “made much more difficult the role of the revolutionary leadership within the masses. Political pluralism, mixed economy and the more general traits of the revolution,” he said, “tend to confuse the masses.” Hence Borge said it would have been better from the start to pursue “an ideological project which is as clearly defined as the one that existed in Cuba.”

It would take a few years, but the “ideological project” of a communist regime became one that the FSLN would implement before they were voted out of office in 1989, in an election they assumed they would win but which they were unable to avoid because of growing international pressure.

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