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The Intellectual Dishonesty of William Kristol

10:02 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

No American with a basic understanding of this country’s military history could not have been anything but taken aback by William Kristol’s intellectually dishonest criticism of this statement in President Obama’s second inaugural speech: “But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.” Kristol, the public face of the Neoconservatives, who like most of his likeminded peers, is lacking in military experience, regularly advocates a muscular use of American military power abroad. Thus few would be surprised that he might construct his own historically inaccurate critique of the president’s remarks: “Two points: First, our forebears were only able to “win the peace” because they first crushed our enemies in war. But under President Obama we’re not committed to winning our wars. We’re committed to ending them. Does Obama really think we’re going to win the peace after not winning the war? Second, think about the formulation-”and not just.” Surely President Obama should have said this: “we are also heirs to those who won the peace as well as the war…” But he didn’t say that. The formulation Obama chose-”and not just the war”-suggests that Obama believes that it’s no big deal to win a war, and the greater achievement is winning the peace. With respect to World War II, this view is ludicrous. With respect to today’s world, this view is dangerous.”

First and foremost the very notion that our forbearers regularly “crushed our enemies in war” doesn’t correspond too closely with accepted history. The truth is that the majority of wars fought by America were settled with negotiated peace treaties that left our defeated enemies more or less intact as nation states. In the American Revolution, where victory was anything but certain, it was the introduction of French forces, especially naval, combined with significant material aid from Britain’s European adversaries that turned the tide in favor of the American cause and which led to the British surrender at Yorktown. Moreover, it was a vote taken in the House of Commons in April 1782 that provided the impetus to finally end the politically unpopular war in the colonies rather than any crushing defeat of British military forces in North America. Even in defeat, Britain with the rest of its empire intact could hardly be seen as having been crushed. Following the American Revolution two wars with the piratical Barbary States in North Africa were ultimately settled through negotiation. The final military measures which lead to the long term demise of pirate activity in North Africa was a function of British, not American, naval action. The Quasi-Naval War with France from 1798 to 1800 ended in a negotiated settlement which left Napoleon Bonaparte anything but “crushed.” The War of 1812 devolved into a stalemate where Washington D.C. was burned, American invasions of Canada failed and the new American Navy won impressive victories at sea and on the Great Lakes. The negotiated settlement that ended the War of 1812 happened to fall between two important military victories for the British. In 1805 Horatio Nelson defeated the French and Spanish navies at Trafalgar thereby assuring British naval supremacy and in 1815 Wellington would defeat Napoleon at Waterloo thereby eliminating Britain’s chief land rival in Europe. Again with Britain militarily ascendant and its empire intact, no one but a fool would claim that the Americans had “crushed” the British.

The War with Mexico comes closer to Kristol’s idea of America crushing an enemy but even then we forgave or alleviated the defeated Mexican government’s $30 Million dollars in owed reparations. In the American Civil War Union forces definitely crushed the small government states’ rights advocates of the Confederacy and in all of the Indian Wars that preceded it and took place thereafter the American Army certainly crushed the Native Americans in ways that many of us would find questionable today. In the Spanish-American War we defeated obsolete Spanish naval squadrons in the Caribbean and in the Pacific but our ultimate victories in Cuba and the Philippines were greatly aided by long running and deep seated indigenous insurgencies in both theaters and which saw Filipino’s not Americans doing almost all of the fighting ashore. While Spain lost its feeble grip on its overseas possessions Spain itself was never invaded nor was its more modern home fleet ever challenged at sea. Again, based on history, it’s hard to see the negotiated outcome of the Spanish-American Wars as one in which the enemy was crushed.

In World War I the entrance of the United States into the conflict finally tipped the balance in the favor of the Allies but Germany’s war machine had run up against so many failures to break through the stalemate on the Western Front that continuing was no longer tenable. Beset by internal dissent at home and a breakdown in trust between the Army and the ruling autocrats an armistice was sought. Germany itself was never invaded and German arms had put Czarist Russia out of the war, thrown back the Italians on their southern flank, defeated the Romanians and with the Turks, stymied the British and French in Asia Minor. With the British and French forces doing most of the fighting and dying it is again, hard to conceive of the Germans having been essentially “crushed” by America alone. Kristol’s image of America crushing its enemies certainly obtains a high degree of historical accuracy when analyzing World War II in the Pacific, particularly if you downplay British Commonwealth operations in Burma and the war in China. America along with Britain and Russia certainly crushed Nazi Germany and beat the Italians into submission in Europe. But while British and American bombers pulverized Germany from the air and their navies chased the Germans from the sea, one can’t ignore the fact that 80% of all of the German soldiers who perished in WWII were killed by a Russian. That said it would be intellectually as well as historically dishonest to claim that America alone or even largely crushed the European Fascists. In the immediate postwar period, the Korean War ended in a stalemate, settled in negotiated armistice. Despite the fact that every major city, village and town in North Korea was heavily bombed, one could hardly say the Communist regime in North Korea had been crushed, certainly not when they’re toying with nuclear weapons today as I write this post. The only parties crushed in the Vietnam War were our allies the South Vietnamese and the Cambodians. George H. W. Bush showed definite restraint in refraining from invading Iraq after dislodging Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait even though we decisively won the First Gulf War. While we seriously degraded Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1991 we didn’t crush his Baathist regime until the Second Gulf War. In Afghanistan we routed the Taliban out of the country and into Pakistan ten years ago on George W. Bush’s watch but based on the continued threat posed by them one could not contend that they’ve been crushed. Retiring theater commander General John Allen has recently said that the Pakistan based Taliban remains the single most significant operational threat facing American forces and the long term stability of Afghanistan.

Likewise Kristol is historically far afield when he tries to portray Obama as being uniquely “not committed to winning our wars.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, a national war hero, traveled to the Korea just weeks before his inauguration, determined the war unwinnable and then came home to set in motion the military and diplomatic actions that would lead to an armistice. That settlement would leave a badly battered Communist regime in power in the north. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger telegraphed to the diplomatic community at the time that they had no intention of trying to win the war in Vietnam when they said that their goal was to affect “a decent interval” within which military operations could be turned over to the government of South Vietnam. The ultimate political goal, citing Stanley Karnow, author of “Vietnam: A History” was to create enough space for America to disengage from the conflict leaving its ally in Saigon to fend for itself thereby absorbing alone any defeat that might follow. George Veith in a more recent book on the fall of South Vietnam titled “Black April” detailed the many factors that contributed to the fall of the Saigon government. Among those factors was Nixon’s failure to honor the pledge to intervene with massive air and naval support and how the drastic reduction in material aid would result in southern forces losing air mobility due to a shortage of spare parts and fuel. In 1983 Ronald Reagan was quick to pull American Marines out of Lebanon after their barracks were bombed and showed little interest in trying to forge a victory in that country choosing instead to cut his losses and change direction.

Kristol’s notion that it was only by crushing our adversaries that we were able to “win the peace’ is also to be seen to be anything but accurate in historical hindsight. While we had little to worry about from Mexico after 1848 the westward expansion resulting from our victory only served to fuel the slavery / states’ rights controversy that would eventually boil over into the American Civil War. The Federal victory over the Confederacy far from eliminated problems of race and discrimination in the southern states. The crushing of Indian tribes east of the Mississippi did little to convince those to the west to surrender without a fight. Our victory over Spain in the Philippines in 1901 was followed by an insurrection against occupying American forces that didn’t end until 1913. Few would consider the peace won in 1918 to be anything but a setting of the stage for a more horrific war in 1939. One could hardly see the Iraq affair as anything but a misadventure in which no one apparently has won the peace, not unless your idea of peace comes with regular car bombings and domestic terror or one in which the power of our arch enemy in the region, Iran, has been greatly enhanced. With regard to Afghanistan the jury of history is still out but the prospects for a lasting peace there are far from bright.

Nothing in the foregoing is meant to downplay the triumphs of American arms or the sacrifice of American fighting forces from the founding of the country to the present. Nor is it meant to give short shrift to the benefits that many in this world have derived from those sacrifices and triumphs which have done so much to further the cause of democracy and freedom through the ages. Those who know American military history are well aware of those achievements and there is nothing new in the way of knowledge for them to gain in paying serious attention to William Kristol. Kristol is best viewed as a man who is forlornly pushing a much discredited Neoconservative agenda that has been seen to have largely failed. Anyone who is in search of a good overview of American military history has more than enough in the way of good scholarly research from which to choose and suffice it to say the writings of Bill Kristol wouldn’t be listed among them.

What is at issue here is either a deliberate misuse of history for the purpose of furthering a now discredited political agenda or a willingness to engage in intellectual dishonesty in a continuing campaign of perpetrating lies and falsehoods related to the actions and character of the president. This sort of behavior needs to be called out so as to prevent these ill-conceived ideas from gaining any further currency in the nation’s political discourse. It goes without saying that neither of the aforementioned motives does anything to advance the cause of freedom and the esthablishment of democracies. Kristol’s commentary can only be seen for what it ultimately is, the musings of a malcontent whose chief political accomplishment to date was to advocate for a war that is considered, thus far, to be America’s greatest foreign policy disaster. Kristol is a man who continues to be adversely obsessed with the political success of Barack Obama, unable or unwilling to see the president as anything but a political bogeyman. Kristol continues to advocate for a type of foreign policy that is unsustainable in the current fiscal and political environment. The American people, as a whole, are war weary and defense budgets are being cut back around the world with few exceptions. Of late the Neoconservatives can add yet another failure to their track record and that would be their role in the failed presidential campaign of Mitt Romney where they dominated his foreign policy staff. As one would recall, beyond Romney’s ill-advised comments about the 47%, his trips abroad and his positions on foreign policy turned out to be among those most damaging to his prospects for electoral success. That said is it any wonder as to why Bill Kristol and the Neoconservatives continue to fade in importance on the political scene both here and abroad. Is there any reason for the informed among us to pay them any mind? I think the answer to that question is more than obvious at this point in time.

Steven J. Gulitti

February 25, 2013

Mitt Romney: Conservative Trojan Horse or Political Chameleon?

11:16 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Romney caricature

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

What became of Mitt Romney the “severe conservative” who so assured the American right earlier this year that he had long since slipped his moorings to a moderate political past in Massachusetts? Surely a “severely conservative” Mitt Romney wasn’t the guy who showed up to debate Barack Obama on the 3rd of October. Apparently this “pivot to the center” was widely observed but not universally accepted:

Jonathan Chait:

Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity — and, when necessary, making them up — to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off guard.

Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote of the contrast between the rhetoric of the Republican primaries and Romney the debater:

The G.O.P. did its best to appear unattractive. It had trouble talking the language of compassion. It seemed to regard reasonable political compromise as an act of dishonor. It offered little for struggling Americans except that government would leave them alone…on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog. He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself…Far from being an individualistic, social Darwinist, Romney spoke comfortably about compassion and shared destinies…Far from wanting to eviscerate government and railing about government dependency, Romney talked about how to make government programs work better…Far from being an unthinking deregulator, Romney declared, ‘Regulation is essential’ … Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do. Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity.

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

This move to the center, there’s no complaint from conservatives. Is it that they are so eager to defeat President Obama that they, right now, say, anything that works is okay with them?

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat:

What Romney executed on Wednesday night was not just a simple pivot to the center, as much of the post-debate analysis suggested. Pivot he certainly did — stressing bipartisanship and touting his record as the moderate governor of a liberal state, backing away from the more implausible spending cuts implied by his budget promises, explicitly breaking with the idea that upper-bracket tax cuts can be a self-financing free lunch.

Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin:

Is the ‘new’ Mitt Romney going to be on offer through Election Day, or might he backslide?

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:

Read the rest of this entry →

For the Radical Right, a Defeat in New Hampshire

10:46 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Tonight’s outcome in New Hampshire represents a significant setback for the fortunes of the Tea Party movement along with the rest of the radical right as Republican moderates have captured the bulk of the votes cast in the contest. When you combine Romney’s take with that of Gingrich and Huntsman what you see is that collectively Republican moderates received a total of 65.6% of the total vote count. Conversely those candidates who are popular with the radical right were only able to secure 39.3% of the votes cast. That means that two thirds of the voters voted for a candidate that’s not likely to do anything for a radical conservative agenda or its supporters other than use them for their vote and thereafter bid them farewell a la Senator Scott Brown (R-MA). See the graph from Associated Press below.
 
While nothing is ever cast in stone in the world of American politics, no candidate in modern times who ever won both the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary failed to win his party’s nomination. Suffice it to say that the leadership of the Republican establishment can only be much relieved by these results as it suggests that voters may be moving back to the center after having flirted with the Tea Party and the radical right. That Tea Party affinity may have produced dramatic electoral gains in 2010 but it has also created gridlock in Washington, a tarnished image of the Republican Party and electoral defeats in 2011. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Republican establishment, which is well aware of the Congressional G.O.P’s low standing in the eyes of the public, attributes much of that low standing to the impact of the Tea Party caucus on Capitol Hill. Now with Mitt Romney’s fortunes apparently on the rise the Republican leadership can only hope that he can power past right-wing radicals in most of the remaining primaries thereby rendering any prospect of a Tea Party backed candidate moot. With that development the Republican Party can plan a campaign to defeat Barack Obama in November that would have been otherwise futile had a Tea Party backed candidate been the front runner.
 
In a prescient article that appeared before the 2011 elections, Matt Bai interviewed uber-Conservative William Kristol who said a “large number of Republican primary voters, and even more independent general-election voters, will be wary of supporting a Republican candidate in 2012 if the party looks as if it’s in the grip of an infantile form of conservatism.” Bai himself noted the following: “Given such fast-deteriorating conditions, [in the economy] many Republican veterans have come around to the view that they aren’t really going to need the perfect presidential candidate, and perhaps not even a notably good one. With Chris Christie having taken himself out of the running — again — earlier this month, the field of candidates now appears to be pretty much set, and none of them are likely to inspire any reimagining’s of Mount Rushmore. But maybe all the moment requires is someone who can pass as a broadly acceptable alternative — a candidate who doesn’t project the Tea Party extremism of Michele Bachmann or the radical isolationism of Ron Paul. “If we have a Rick Perry versus Mitt Romney battle for the nomination, it’s a little hard to say, ‘Ooh, the party has really gone off the rails,’ ” Kristol told me just after Perry entered the race, a development that essentially ended Bachmann’s brief ascent. Establishment Republicans may prefer Romney to Perry, but their assumption is that either man can be counted on to steer the party back toward the broad center next fall, effectively disarming the Tea Party mutiny.” Well it goes without saying that tonight’s results bring the Republican Party a step closer to the establishment’s goal of a party that appeals to the broad middle of the American electorate, particularly the non aligned independents, while at the same time adding increased downward momentum to the faltering Tea Party movement. Thus it would appear that tonight’s real winners are the old line establishment Republicans and the real losers are the Tea Party crowd, the Ron Paul libertarians and the rest of the radical right.
 
Steven J. Gulitti
1/10/12
 
 
 
Results for New Hampshire Republican Primary (U.S. Presidential Primary)
Jan 10, 2012 (92% of precincts reporting)
Mitt Romney 90,918   39.3%
Ron Paul 52,842  22.9%
Jon Huntsman 38,963  16.9%
Newt Gingrich 21,742     9.4%
Rick Santorum 21,562 9.3%
Rick Perry
1,612
0.7%
Michele Bachmann
 325
0.1%
Other
3,104
1.3%
 
Sources:

6:35 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative organ, The Weekly Standard, recently bemoaned the performance of conservative candidates during the last Republican presidential debate. He claims to be saying out loud what he implies is a widespread but as of yet unarticulated feeling among conservatives, that the 2012 field of Republican contenders is lackluster at best and wholly unsuited to defeating Obama at the very worst. Quoting Kristol: “But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him. And Mitt Romney remains, when all is said and done, a technocratic management consultant whose one term as governor produced Romneycare. He could rise to the occasion as president. Or not…none of the candidates really seemed up to the moment, either politically or substantively. In the midst of a crisis, we’re getting politics as usual-and a somewhat subpar version of politics as usual at that.” Kristol went on to lament the fact that neither Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan or Chris Christie would “step up” and enter the fray a development that he feels may assure the reelection of Barack Obama. Moreover Kristol said that seventy percent of the Republican activists attending the September 22nd event in Orlando cast a vote of no confidence in the two front runners.

To what extent is Kristol correct on the current state of affairs within the G.O.P. and to what extent is this merely the griping of a man so thoroughly tied to the fading neoconservative wing of the Republican Party that he can take no other position. Is Kristol’s lamentation representative of others within the conservative ranks who just can’t abide candidates that won’t advocate an aggressive American foreign policy including military intervention? As you know it was the Neoconservatives who took the reality of American exceptionalism and married it to the idea that this country should use its military might to effect regime change around the world. It was the NeoCons within the first Bush administration who prodded the president to war with Iraq, a misadventure that is now widely regarded as one of this country’s most profound foreign policy mistakes. Are William Kristol and his fellow neoconservatives simply men out step with the times or are they really onto something with regard to the quality of the Republican presidential contenders for 2012 or could they be both at the same time?

For starters, the mood in the country has emphatically moved away from military involvement abroad. Polling results show that from mid to late 2010, majorities of respondents have favored withdrawal from the conflict in Afghanistan and have said that the U.S. should no longer be involved there. Likewise polling results show similar findings regarding the War in Iraq except that the opposition to American involvement goes back over a much longer period of time. The results are somewhat different for the situation in Libya which may be affected by the fact that there are no large troop deployments presently there on the ground and thus no nightly casualty count. Beyond the sentiment of public opinion there is the plain and painful fact that military operations abroad are now constrained by fiscal problems at home. It has become increasingly hard to justify large scale military operations overseas when we are faced with crumbling infrastructure and high unemployment here in the United States. A recent conference of U.S. mayors made the case that money spent in Southwest Asia would be better spent in American cities. In his critique of the Republican field, Kristol over emphasizes foreign military factors and underplays the economic problems presently in existence on the home front. He also ignored the fact that the newly changed landscape of American political economy is simply not a favorable environment within which Neoconservative ideas can be sustained. For America in 2011 the current age of expeditionary warfare is coming to a close and the Neoconservatives like William Kristol are being left on the sidelines.

SJG
9/28/11

Sources:

Special Editorial: Yikes; http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/special-editorial-yikes_594095.html

A No Confidence Vote in Orlando; http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/no-confidence-vote-orlando_594181.html

PollingReport.com – Afghanistan; http://www.pollingreport.com/afghan.htm

PollingReport.com – Iraq; http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm

PollingReport.com – Libya; http://www.pollingreport.com/libya.htm

Conservative Pundits Throwing Perry Under the Bus?

9:18 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

For the second time in the past two days a prominent conservative commentator has thrown Texas Governor Rick Perry under the bus possibly sending this latest Tea Party darling into a downward tailspin along the same trajectory as that of the faltering Michele Bachmann. This morning on Fox News Sunday veteran political analyst Brit Hume stated: “Perry is about one-half a step away from almost total collapse as a candidate…He still has some opportunity to recover his balance and put in a strong performance. What was so strikingly troubling about — from a Republican point of view — about this performance was that Perry was thought of as a really true conservative. Now it appears he has got this position on immigration which is anathema to a lot of conservatives. So this really hurts him with the base.” Just a few days ago William Kristol in an editorial analyzing the Republican debate in Orlando opined that any number of uncommitted potential candidates would be better than those who took the stage in Orlando.

I believe what we have here is a growing panic among the conservatives in this country as to their movement’s inability to produce a strong candidate that should be able to beat a very vulnerable Barack Obama. Not that I believe that the Republicans have any semblance of a strategy that could actually turn the economy around, but with the overall public dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs being what it is it should be relatively easy to unseat the incumbent. The fact that conservatives keep hoping to find someone better than Mitt Romney speaks volumes as to the consternation within their ranks as to the quality of their field of contenders. Add to that the simmering conflict between the emergent Tea Party movement and what some pundits call the “weakening G.O.P. establishment” and what you have are the ingredients for further internal conflict on the right. Whether or not this conflict burns up so much energy as to hobble their candidate during the upcoming presidential election remains to be seen. After all, any Republican candidate that’s not been vetted by the Tea Party will have to tack to the right in order to win in the Republican primaries. That may very well leave the winner with a track record of public comments that are unacceptable to the independent voters upon which the outcome of 2012 will ultimately depend. Thus the next election may be decided to a greater degree than anticipated on the internal warfare that will eventually erupt within the G.O.P.

Sources:

Hume: Perry “One Step Away from Collapse” ; http://thepage.time.com/2011/09/25/hume-perry-one-step-away-from-collapse/

Hume: ‘Perry is about one-half a step away from almost total collapse’; http://dailycaller.com/2011/09/25/hume-perry-is-about-one-half-a-step-away-from-almost-total-collapse/#ixzz1YyyiJKGN

William Kristol: Special Editorial: Yikes; http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/special-editorial-yikes_594095.html

Glenn Beck and His “Caliphate” Upended by the Arab Street

8:11 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

If there’s one thing that can be discerned for sure from recent events in the Middle East, it’s the upending of Glenn Beck’s “Caliphate Conspiracy” and the rendering of that theory and its author to nothing more than a farcical sideshow to the big show now underway in the Muslim world. Moreover Beck’s latest pratfall may be the beginning of his own self inflicted marginalization and eventual irrelevance, resulting from increased criticism of Beck himself by prominent conservatives.

Beck has promoted the theory that “the Egyptian revolution is not about the citizens of the country fighting for their political rights or better economic conditions.  Instead, the Egyptian people are being “played” by the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Muslim Brotherhood is also part of larger movement by progressives and Marxist to take over much of the world in the pursuit of “social justice.”  Under Beck’s theory the Egyptian revolution will not only spread to other countries the Middle East, but also to India and Europe.  The caliphate will consist of India and much of Southeast Asia, in addition to Portugal, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom.”

Well it goes without saying that such a sophomorically simplistic theory should be seen as irrelevant and inapplicable in a complex world such as ours. Not only is it unlikely that devout Muslims would ever make common cause with “the hardcore socialist and the Communist left”, there isn’t enough of a “hardcore of Communists or Socialists” left in the world today to supplement the ranks of this great “Caliphate” army. Those left from yestardays Communist cadres are too busy making money in China, Russia and Southeast Asia. Likewise, today’s European Socialists seem hardly the type to saddle up for a prolonged war to affect the invasion of their own home territories. American Progressives are now, for the time being, engaged with trying to protect the gains of the past eighty years. Perhaps Mr. Beck is relying on the Maoists of Nepal to come to the aid of todays Islamic radicals. Moreover, today there are twenty two different variations of Islamic thinking, parceled beneath the two main Islamic schools of thought. Thus it would be highly unlikely that any ideological unity could be affected from one end of Islam to the other, especially when you consider the cultural and ethnic differences that one would encounter between Casabalnca and Jakarta. 

To drive the point home, a sampling of what’s actually happening across the Islamic world reveals just how divorced from reality is Mr. Beck and his theory:

  • “The Tunisian revolution that overthrew decades of authoritarian rule has entered a delicate new phase in recent days over the role of Islam in politics… Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western lifestyle shatter stereotypes of the Arab world…Protesters held up signs saying, “Politics ruins religion and religion ruins politics.”

 

  • [In Bahrain] “an anxious calm prevailed, with a standoff continuing between an absolute monarchy determined to preserve its full range of powers and a peaceful opposition demanding a transition to democracy with an elected government and representative Parliament.”

 

  • “But the demands in Morocco include a desire for a more legitimate democracy; with limits on the power of Mohammed VI…The Arab world is changing and the Moroccan people need a change in the Constitution for more democracy. We want a country like Britain, with a constitutional monarchy and a strong Parliament that is not corrupt.”

 

  • “The Egyptian people have spoken, and we have spoken emphatically. In two weeks of peaceful demonstrations we have persistently demanded liberation and democracy. It was groups of brave, sincere Egyptians who initiated this moment of historical opportunity on Jan. 25, and the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to joining the national effort toward reform and progress.” 

 

  • “Surprised by the turnout, older opposition leaders from across the spectrum — including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood; the liberal protest group the Egyptian Movement for Change, known by its slogan, “Enough”; and the umbrella group organized by Dr. ElBaradei — joined in, vowing to turn out their supporters for another day of protest on Friday. But the same handful of young online organizers were still calling the shots.”

 

Thus, as shown by the above, there is little evidence of Beck’s claims that:”1. Groups from the hardcore socialist and Communist left and extreme Islam will work together because they are both a common enemy of Israel and the Jew. 2. Groups from the hardcore socialist and Communist left and extreme Islam will work together because they are the common enemy of capitalism and the western way of life. 3. Groups from the hardcore socialist and Communist left and extreme Islam will work to overturn relatively stable countries, because, in the status quo, they are both ostracized from power.” According to Ryan Witt the National Examiner:”there has been no credible evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the Egyptian uprising.  The Muslim Brotherhood did not officially join the protests until days after the uprising began.  There is also little chance of the Muslim Brotherhood taking over EgyptThe Muslim Brotherhood has never shown the ability to gain widespread support in Egypt, as their agenda is considered too radical for much of the relatively moderate population.  Many of the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as limiting the presidency in Egypt to males only, have been strongly rejected by the Egyptian population.”

 Beyond the absurdity of Beck and his “Caliphate Conspiracy” theory there is the increasing irrelevance of Beck himself. It would be innaccurate to describe Glenn Beck as a legitimate political commentator, after all he is nothing more than a political entertainerer, in a sense nothing than the equivelent of a rodeo clown in American political comentary. Beck is nothing but a side show to the big show going on all around him.

Of late, as a result of the “Caliphate Conspiracy”, Beck has been taken to task by several prominent American conservatives. Foremost among Beck’s critics is the NeoConservative William Kristol who said: “When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.” Richard Lowry of the National Review echoed Kristol’s criticism, to wit: “a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck’s latest wild theorizing.” David Brooks opined on Beck’s “delusional ravings about the caliphate coming back…For the first time, you began to see a lot of really serious conservatives taking on Beck and people like that, and saying, you know, your theories are just wacky.”

What’s the bottom line on all of Mr. Beck’s “Caliphate” blather; plummeting ratings and a declining audience. According to On Media, The Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times’ Frank Rich:” The January ratings are in and Glenn Beck had his worst performance since his Fox show started in January of 2009, drawing just 397,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic and 1.762 [million] total viewers.” This decline amounts to a 39 percent decline overall and a 48 percent drop off in the prime 25-to-54 age demographic. This figure represents the steepest decline of any cable news show. Quoting Rich:” His strenuous recent efforts to portray the Egyptian revolution as an apocalyptic leftist-jihadist conspiracy have inspired more laughs than adherents.” Or perhaps as per Business insider, Glenn Beck has merely worn out his welcome with American audiences: “It’s entirely possible viewers are simply tiring of the chalkboard and the high rhetoric, which has been notably higher of late…And needless to say Beck is not the phenom he was a year ago, merely by dint of the country becoming more familiar with him.”

Surely none of this could sit well with Rupert Murdoch and the managers of the Fox News Network. Here we are in the midst of one of the greatest events of this new century and one of their prime time commentators is making a fool of himself peddling absurd theories which only give rise to a wave of criticism from both the left and the networks natural allies on the right. Moreover, all of this controversy is taking place against a steady stream of advertisers asking that their products not be promoted on Glenn Beck’s show. In the end, that can’t be good for Fox as it ultimately cares about advertising revenues, not the validity of the multitude of bizarre Glenn Beck conspiracies. By his recent actions, Mr. Beck has merely moved further away from the center of the national and international political discussion, taking his naive and unsophisticated viewers along with him on a magic carpet ride into the realm of irrelevance.

Steven J. Gulitti

2/21/2011

Sources:

Glenn Beck lifts ‘caliphate’ to the top of Google Trends with conspiracy theory – National Political Buzz | Examiner.com

http://www.examiner.com/political-buzz-in-national/glenn-beck-lifts-caliphate-to-the-top-of-google-trends-with-conspiracy-theory#ixzz1EclycPzH

Glenn Beck Stands By Egypt Caliphate Conspiracy Theory: ‘I’m Not Wrong’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/04/glenn-beck-egypt-caliphate-conspiracy-theory_n_818564.html

 

Next Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/africa/21tunisia.html?ref=world

Amid Standoff, Opposition Seeks Dissolution of Bahraini Government

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/middleeast/21bahrain.html?ref=middleeast

Fears of Chaos Temper Calls for Change in Morocco

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/world/middleeast/21morocco.html?ref=middleeast

What the Muslim Brothers Want
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/10/opinion/10erian.html?scp=2&sq=muslim%20brotherhood&st=cse

Protest’s Old Guard Falls In Behind the Young

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/world/middleeast/31opposition.html?scp=14&sq=youth%20leadership%20in%20the%20egyptian%20revolt&st=cse

 

Glenn Beck lifts ‘caliphate’ to the top of Google Trends with conspiracy theory

 http://www.examiner.com/political-buzz-in-national/glenn-beck-lifts-caliphate-to-the-top-of-google-trends-with-conspiracy-theory#ixzz1Ee0UZ9UV

Why is Glenn Beck freaking out over Egypt and a caliphate?

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/Vox-News/2011/0212/Why-is-Glenn-Beck-freaking-out-over-Egypt-and-a-caliphate

Beck hits ratings low, Maddow tops Morgan

http://www.politico.com/blogs/onmedia/0211/Beck_hits_ratings_low_Maddow_tops_Morgan.html

 

The G.O.P.’s Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/opinion/20rich.html?emc=eta1

The Flawed Logic of William Kristol

8:10 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In a recent Washington Post article titled “A Good Time to be a Conservative”; Mr. Kristol made a bold assumption, claiming the “center of gravity” within the Republican Party would shift farther to the right, propelled in that direction by a collection of conservative personalities from beyond the Beltway. Indicating a lack of faith in the G.O.P.’s elected leadership, Kristol says: “Even if Republicans pick up the House in 2010, the party’s big ideas and themes for the 2012 presidential race will probably not emanate from Capitol Hill. The center of gravity, I suspect, will instead lie with individuals such as Palin and Huckabee and Gingrich, media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and activists at town halls and tea parties. Some will lament this — but over the past year, as those voices have dominated, conservatism has done pretty well in the body politic, and Republicans have narrowed the gap with Democrats in test ballots.” Kristol’s logic is derived from two polls. First, the Gallup Poll of October 26, 2009 that puts the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as conservatives at 40 percent, and an earlier Rasmussen Poll indicating that the only 2012 Republican presidential prospects polling double digits are Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. When one looks inside the numbers, it would appear that there are more than a few flaws in Mr. Kristol’s math and intuitive reasoning.

The Gallup results show that the net increase in the percentage of people identifying as conservatives had taken place within that subset of the electorate classified as independents. Quoting Gallup: “Changes among political independents appear to be the main reason the percentage of conservatives has increased nationally over the past year: the 35% of independents describing their views as conservative in 2009 is up from 29% in 2008. By contrast, among Republicans and Democrats, the percentage who are "conservative" has increased by one point each.” In spite of the shift in independents identifying as conservatives, the actual percentage of voters who identify with the G.O.P., which is the defacto conservative party, has fallen to historical lows. The latest political identification polling results available on Pollster.com reveals that just 25 percent of those polled identify themselves as Republicans. That percentage improves when registered and likely voters are polled, but the G.O.P. still trails the Democrats here as well. To date, had independents firmly embraced the principles of the conservative movement generally or the G.O.P. in particular, the percentage of voters identifying as Republicans would show a marked increase and so far that is not the case. I would argue that the shift to the right among independent voters is far from solid and is conditional, being subject to a set of factors that will likely change by the time of the 2012 election. In fact an even newer Gallup Poll reveals just how transient independent political attitudes actually are. That poll: “Race for 2010 Remains Close; Democrats Recover Slight Lead”, which came out on December 14 states: “The current generic-ballot results are similar to those Gallup found in July and October of this year, and indicate that the Republican gain observed just after the Nov. 3 elections was not sustained. Shifts in candidate preference for Congress typically occur primarily among independents, whose "unanchored" status makes them much more vulnerable to short-term events in the political environment than are those who claim allegiance to either major party.” I would go beyond the latest Gallup findings to suggest that the number of independents identifying as conservatives will decrease proportionately to the degree to which the G.O.P. moves to the right, especially if the Republican Party finds its public image welded to the personalities of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin or the Tea Party crowd.

In his reliance on the results of the above cited Rasmussen Poll, Mr. Kristol is in effect betting the house on a collection of would be candidates that, in spite of polling in the double digits, leave much to be desired when it actually comes to getting elected. Kristol is one of Sarah Palin’s most passionate cheerleaders, but in suggesting that the future of the conservative movement might lie in the fortunes of Ms. Palin, he seems to be gambling on a horse not worth the wager. Mid-December poll results from both Pollster.com and Polling Report.com show Palin registering an unfavorable rating of 48 percent. An ABC poll of November 15th showed that 53 percent of respondents would not vote for Palin with 60 percent saying she was not qualified to be president. More damaging still is a CBS poll of November 15, which revealed that 62 percent of those Republicans polled felt that Palin lacked the ability to be an effective president. At the time of Palin’s resignation from elected office, Republican strategist Mike Murphy opined: “If the Sarah Palin we perceive today wins the nomination in 2012, the G.O.P. will lose. Most Americans don’t think Palin is ready to be President. The base loving you is not enough to get you elected.” Conservative columnist Michael Gerson, reflecting on Palin’s resignation said: “She really alienated women and the college educated on both coasts and that is not how you rebuild the Republican Party.” The reality is that the Republican Party cannot hope to win without the support of independent voters, whom Palin clearly alienates and whose ranks are, according to Pew Research, now at a seventy-year high. Recently, two Republican heavyweights: Haley Barbour, former Chairman of the RNC, and Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) both declined to endorse a 2012 Palin presidential bid when they appeared on MSNBC and Fox News.

In spite of the fact that Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have double-digit support among Republicans, none of them breaks a 40 percent favorability rating among voters generally, except Huckabee. However, Huckabee’s 40 percent approval rating was registered before Maurice Clemmons, an inmate pardoned by Huckabee, gunned down four police officers in late November. That said, we might see a decline in Huckabee’s overall standing in the polls. Poll numbers aside, in the 2008 Republican primaries, Huckabee was only able to win in the south and thus his viability as a national candidate is questionable. Furthermore, Huckabee’s past equivocation on the topic of evolution works to his detriment when it comes to appealing to that large segment of the population that believes in science as well as religion. Mitt Romney, as a result of his Mormon faith, had problems with the evangelical base of the G.O.P., which plays a crucial role in the early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina. Moreover, Romney may well run into formidable headwinds from the far right as a result of his relatively moderate approach to politics and policy positions. Newt Gingrich, who’s favorable ratings are the lowest, at 14 percent, has a closet full of skeletons of his own which led in 1998 to his stepping down as the Speaker of the House and his departure from Congress altogether. Needless to say these issues will surely be resurrected and they will be in the forefront of the debate in the event that Gingrich becomes a serious presidential contender.

It is in his rather absurd suggestion that the G.O.P.’s center of gravity might travel further to the right as a function of the influence of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or the Tea Party Movement, that Kristol, having slipped his moorings to reality, has embarked on what can only be considered a voyage of political fantasy. Neither Limbaugh nor Beck are particularly compelling personalities beyond the realm of their audience. Both traffic in the sensational, often blurring the lines between fact and fiction with their primary purpose being incendiary commentary rather than legitimate hard news analysis. The media watchdog, Media Matters for America has compiled fifty-three pages of citations detailing Limbaugh’s distortion of facts or their deliberate misrepresentation for political purposes. For Glenn Beck there are forty-two pages. The latest NBC/WSJ poll (June 2009), which I was able to find on Limbaugh’s popularity, showed that 50 percent of those responding viewed him in a negative light. A similar poll in September showed Glenn Beck registering a positive rating of just 25 percent. In spite of the fact that both Limbaugh and Beck have a committed following, accurately measuring the true size and composition of their respective audiences and the extent to which they actually reflect more than a thin slice of this country’s political spectrum is almost impossible. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post attempted to plumb the length and breadth of Limbaugh’s audience and therefore his influence, in a March 2009 article: “Limbaugh’s Audience Size? It’s Largely Up in the Air.” Relying on interviews with media industry sources, Farhi claims that Limbaugh’s audience fluctuates between 14 to 30 million, depending on the issues of the day. Quoting Michael Harrison of “Talkers Magazine”, Farhi puts Limbaugh’s average audience at 14.25 million listeners per week, which is just under 5 percent of the population. Glenn Beck’s audience is far smaller and his largest audience to date was roughly 3.4 million viewers on September 15, 2009, which amounts to just 1.1 percent of the population.

When it comes to the Tea Party Movement, it is equally difficult in coming to an agreement as to just how many people are involved here and to what extent they really reflect more than a microcosm of American political life. According to the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, a pro-Tea Party group, just 578,000 people participated in the 2009 April Tax Day Protests. Their website does not display figures for the July 4th protests nor does FreedomWorks.com or any other pro-Tea Party website that I came across. The largest number I remember seeing is in the neighborhood of 215,000 protestors. Regarding the September 12th Washington D.C. protest rally, Talking Points Memo described the turnout as follows: “FreedomWorks, the main organizers of the Tea Party event in Washington this past weekend, has dramatically lowered its estimate for the size of the crowd at the event from 1.5 million, a number the group now concedes was a mistake, to between 600,000 and 800,000 people — though this is still substantially more than the tens of thousands that most mainstream media outlets have estimated, and which FreedomWorks wholeheartedly rejects.” Thus if we add up the total attendence at all three Tea Parties, using the higher estimates, we come up with a gross attendence of roughly 1.6 million or just one half of one percent of the population.

What the math reveals is that the actual number of people who either participate in Tea Parties or who listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, presumably many do both, is a rather small percentage of the overall population, even considering that portion that would identify as conservative. That said, its a bit of a strectch to assume that such a statistically insignificant number of people is either enough to move the Republican Party further to the right or that it is likely to do so.

There is one final flaw in Kristol’s analysis and that is his ignoring the rising tide of moderates within the party that are opposing any suggestion that the G.O.P. needs to be purified of any moderate tendencies via litmus tests that even Ronald Reagan would fail, that political orthodoxy should be the face of the G.O.P. or that Republicans can only win elections when they embrace ultra conservative ideas. The now formidable array of moderates seeking to stem any drift to the far right encompasses a spectrum of Republican notables from sitting Senators to strategists and political commentators including: Olympia Snowe, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Bob Inglis, Mickey Edwards, Christie Todd Whitman, Newt Gingrich, Tom Ridge, Colin Powell, David Frum, Andrew Sullivan, Kathleen Parker and a host of Republican strategists. Gingrich, appearing on Meet the Press (5/24/09) stated that the G.O.P. has to be “broad enough to incorporate divergent views and can’t be purged to the smallest conservative base.” Tom Ridge stated that the G.O.P. “needs to be less shrill and less condeming of those who don’t hew to a far right view.” Following the departure of Arlen Specter from the Republican Party, Olympia Snowe, in a New York Times editorial opined: “There is no plausible scenario under which Republicans can grow into a majority while shrinking our ideological confines and contiuing to retract into a regional party. Ideological purity is not the ticket back to the promised land of governing majorities.” At an April debate over the future of the G.O.P. Lindsey Graham made the following observation: “We are not losing blue states and shrinking as a party because we are not conservative enough. If we pursue a party that has no place for someone who agrees with me 70 percent of the time, that is based on an ideological purity test rather than a coalition test, then we are going to keep losing.” I could go on, but anyone who has been paying any attention to the civil war within the Republican Party knows that there are more than enough voices and intelligent arguments being made to more than call into question the logic and wisdom of people like Bill Kristol and their fanciful notions that the redemption of the G.O.P. lies in the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or the rank and file Tea Party participant. All one has to do is examine the results of the 2009 off-year elections and what is evident is that where Republicans won elections, in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, they did so by running moderate campaigns that played to the centrist voter. In contrast, the great and financially costly effort by the far right in trying to influence the congressional election in New York’s 23rd Electoral District resulted in a conservative failure with a Democrat capturing a seat held by the G.O.P. since as far back as the Civil War.

Over the course of his career, William Kristol is a man who has backed more political losers and also-rans than winners and it would be nothing less than disastrous for the Republican Party to heed his advice or put any stock in his predictions. Kristol worked for former Secretary of Education William Bennet, the voice of personal responsibility during the Reagan Administration, who subsequently lost much of his credibility when he admitted to losing over a million dollars in Las Vegas slot machines. He was Vice President Qualye’s Chief of Staff. Kristol managed the failed Senatorial campaign of Alan Keyes in 1988 and Keyes would go on to fail twice more in seeking a seat in the Senate and then two more times when running for president. Kristol championed the pardon of Scooter Libby and the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate, a decision that McCain’s staffers would later admit to be his single biggest mistake. But it is in an examination of Kristol’s unabashed cheerleading for the War in Iraq that his predictive abilities are revealed to be so totally lacking. It was Kristol who predicted that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power would unleash a chain reaction of democratic reform across the Middle East that to date has failed to materialize.

Bill Kristol represents that desperate sort of conservative that can’t abide the dynamics of political change wrought by the election of Barack Obama. Likewise, the relatively rapid decline in the influence of Neoconservatives since the 2004 election can’t bring him much joy either. To my mind, Bill Kristol falls into that category within the Conservative Movement that is firmly wedded to the notion that their orthodox ideology is the only one acceptable for America and that anything else is either politically irrelevant or treasonous. Kristol’s faulty logic gives rise to the notion that he is engaged more in wishful thinking than objective political analysis. His prediction as to future direction of the G.O.P. amounts to nothing more than a political “Hail Mary pass” in hoping beyond hope, that somehow or other the Republican Party can be moved to embrace the orthodoxy of the far right. In my opinion, having watched him over the past decade and read his articles, he seems to be increasingly assuming the role of a shill for ultra conservative ideas, becoming as a result less objective in his political analysis. Republicans would be well advised to part company with Mr. Kristol, least they find themselves facing a future of continued electoral defeat and a decline in the party’s appeal among that now indispensable factor in American politics, the unaligned independent voter.

Steven J. Gulitti
New York City
12/17/2009