Thursday, February 28, 2013

Moshe Feiglin and Naftali Bennett: Israel's new generation

By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 2/28/13

The dormant desire to restore Israel to Jewish values is exploding, said Naftali Bennett, who brings a new force and a new generation of politics to the Knesset in Israel. In a recent video he says RE Iran that if the United States doesn't take care of Iran's nuclear production they should let Israel do it themselves. So he seems to be asking America for permission. This is the new Israel? For all the rhetoric, Iran is not a real and credible threat to the United States any more than Iraq was or North Korea is. Iran is a threat to Israel and nothing could be more obvious. Israel should remove the threat. A new Israel would not ask permission and until Israel stops asking permission it will continue to be an American sub state cursed by the vicissitudes of neurotic American presidential politics.

Will Obama bomb Iran? Maybe. My guess is yes. But he will only do so as a bargaining chip. If Obama were to bomb Iran he would come back to Israel with a bargaining chip demanding a Palestinian state. Israel should act and not ask. In one fell swoop, it would bring safety too Israel and independence, removing Israel from American peonage.

Obama is going to Israel to speak to the Knesset. He is going for one purpose: To make a deal. But there will be an empty seat in the Knesset if Obama does not bring with him Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli citizen who has been in American prison for 28 years for passing intelligence to Israel. Moshe Feiglin, a Likud member recently elected to the Knesset, says he will not attend the President's speech if  Obama does not pardon Pollard and bring him back to Israel with him.

Israel is at a generation break - a "Second Zionist Revolution" says Israeli writer Caroline Glick - this time a religious and cultural revival which links the hipsters of Tel Aviv with the conservative rabbis in Jerusalem. Feiglin, who wants Israel to be a "Jewish state" instead of a "state for Jews”, is the link between the two. I interviewed him last year and heard him speak in New York this week. He is a man apart and one possibly who harks back to greater times. He is tall and determined, the archetypal warrior/aesthete and  potentially philosopher/king. As American foreign policy, headed now with politicians Kerry and Hagel, continues in the inspired tradition of Bono, Bob Geldorf and the BoomTown Rats, which has plagued Israel and cost lives since the Oslo Accords, state might begin to ponder his empty seat at Knesset and what it means to Israel.

Feiglin is a mystery and one perhaps only Israel is prepared to solve. He appears to be part Ghandi and part Mier Kahane. His ruminations on destiny and the Jewish condition bring to mind Tolstoy’s late work on violence and non-violence, and he raises questions as Tolstoy did to the greater questions: What is a state, what is a religion? What is our purpose? What is a man?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Sarah Palin? Why Ted Cruz?: “Nationalists” and “Federalists"

By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill, 2/27/13

Demographics are destiny. Nothing else makes history. When the changes ahead are shipped into denial is when chaos and disaster ensue. And the potential disasters America faces today do not come from global warming, nuclear weapons, the Russians, the hippies or the red necks. They come from the economic division of America between the red states, which are rising in capital and prosperity, and the left and right coasts which are receding in economic power. Demographer Joel Kotkin well outlines the transition in a Wall Street Journal essay yesterday title, “America’s Red State Growth Corridors.” 

“In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, some political commentators have written political obituaries of the ‘red’ or conservative-leaning states, envisioning a brave new world dominated by fashionably blue bastions in the Northeast or California,” he writes. “But political fortunes are notoriously fickle, while economic trends tend to be more enduring. . . These trends point to a U.S. economic future dominated by four growth corridors that are generally less dense, more affordable, and markedly more conservative and pro-business: the Great Plains, the Intermountain West, the Third Coast (spanning the Gulf states from Texas to Florida), and the Southeastern industrial belt.”

Historically, these regions were little more than resource colonies or low-wage labor sites for richer, more technically advanced areas, says Kotkin. By promoting policies that encourage enterprise and spark economic growth, they're catching up.

The “corridor states took 11 of the top 15 spots in Chief Executive magazine's 2012 review of best state business climates. California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts were at the bottom. The states of the old Confederacy boast 10 of the top 12 places for locating new plants, according to a recent 2012 study by Site Selection magazine.”

I’m sure it will all go well, but many of these heartland states – from the Atlantic coast across Texas to the western edge of Utah – were brought into the federation by military conquest. Now the conquering states call on the supplicants for a bailout. So how’s that going to work out?

For several years I’ve been making this same claim here, citing economists like Niall Ferguson and the legendary investor Jim Rogers, saying the economic shift in the world since 2007 would bring uneven regional prospects in America. My claim is that a new Jacksonian era will result: When the common folk in the heartland rise in prosperity they will demand a more equitable economic and tax situation and a greater say in the messaging. And if America is to address and contain these critical economic issues, only a new Jacksonian figure – an indigenous folk hero loved in the heartland - can commandeer them. She, like Jackson, would be identified by the contempt she brings from the Eastern establishment’s salons and Hollywood, which still demands a say when the economic paradigm they speak for has shifted. Panic ensues. Systems degenerate. Seasoned writers become hacks. Artists become propagandists. Traditional “right” and “left” political distinctions become irrelevant. A new division occurs between “nationalists” and “federalists.”

“His passions are terrible,” said Jefferson. “I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson President. He is one of the most unfit men I know of for such a place . . . He is a dangerous man.”

Sounds almost as if they were talking about Sarah Palin. Or Ted Cruz. The only two in the sleepy head lineup of CPAC 2013 nostalgicos who will bring the audience to its feet.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reading the Oscars: Will Obama bomb Iran?

By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill, 2/25/13

At least since 1973 when Marlon Brando declined his Oscar - he couldn't remember which picture it was supposed to be for – and sent up Sacheen Littlefeather to pitch the case for Indian rights instead, the giving of Oscars has been as iconic as maedeval architecture, attempting with barely hidden symbolism to territorialize the political culture. Hollywood has changed and possibly invented America. Especially California. It has been said, by Fox Mulder, in an episode of “The X Files,” that this was the way of the "military, industrial, entertainment complex." Several cultural shifts can be intuited from last nights’ awards: The Clinton age is over and President Obama will bomb Iran.

The best-actress award to Jennifer Lawrence, appearing like the White Queen on the chessboard in the “Twilight” series, suggests that the essential fourth generation of the post-war period has arrived.  Her abilities are that of Brando and she is unequaled in her generation. Anyone who attended a high school graduation last year or the year before with a teen age daughter will understand Lawrence’s draw. She marks her generation as Brando did his. And this year Hollywood welcomes them.

Possibly nothing has had such direct affect on American public policy as Ang Lee's “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005, which brought gay rights, gay marriage, gay consciousness to the front agenda in Washington, D.C. and every state in America. Perhaps the season has passed. Lee’s “Life of Pi” is a purely, classically Eastern vision, more to the holistic lines of “Eat Drink Man Woman” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”  It is safe to say that Lee speaks here - like George Lucas and Obi-Wan Kenobi - from the East. While Steven Spielberg, overlooked this year by the Academy - conspicuously ignored, say critics - has long been a prop for Clinton-era liberal politics.

Like Spielberg, his generation’s icons and images have been displaced (“conspicuously ignored” – how they kill you in Hollywood). The Obamas' were first and are still a hedge against the generational culture of 45 million war babies; the Clinton-era generational culture.  Obama blocked them in 2008, Obama’s ally, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren – who, unlike Hillary, knows how to bake a cake – will block them finally in 2016.

The Clinton/Jagger generation submerged for a decade and a half at a very specific moment in 1979 when the Grand Ayatollah of Iran took American hostages. Liberal America was torn on what to do; appease the Ayatollah and meet his demands or resist. Sentiment shifted overnight and America brought a challenge. Ben Affleck's “Argo” awakens and celebrates that singular moment of valor. That the First Lady appeared to offer him his reward indicates the Obama administration's alliance with that sensibility. The administration will act - surprising the pacifists and nihilists of the Clinton state department - in strength to remove the threat from Iran, refurbishing the credentials of American liberals, perceived today as weaklings. But it will be a one-time act for internal political consumption  only. Will they become a better friend to Israel? Not likely. Not California anyway. It has “turned east.”

Americans may be seen in this to be easily swayed. Movies, Aldous Huxley suggested in 1927, were the great imperial tool of the rising American way; a game-show democracy would result; a horde whose sensibilities could be orchestrated by movies, music and pop culture, instead of canton-based or states-based republican organizations. New York has created its own visionary Athens, now dominating a Roman horde.

We are controlled by these gods, and it all happened so quickly.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

O’Reilly and Coulter and Glenn Beck, oh my!

By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 2/25/13

Not since Norman Mailer penned a translation of the New Testament has the literary world seen such buzz. Bill O’Reilly, rankest of publicists and cheapest of political apparatchiks, today turns his savage schoolboy passion to the story of the Christ on the dharma path to Calvary. No “Gospel of Thomas” this, or Tolstoy’s masterful “Gospel in Brief.” O’Reilly is or hopes to be the priest who accompanies the conquistador. We, the Americans, he tells Jesus, are on the march to global cultural conquest and have via TV and radio and movies and the web (and bags of money and soldiers) all but dominated the world’s imagination: You come too, Jesus. We will bring you, too.

Yet nothing is more explicit in the New Testament than the explanation that the things of Caesar are not the things of God, the one should be kept apart from the other and the good woman or man who seeks transcendence will ignore Caesar entirely.  And hopefully ignore Bill O’Reilly as well. This is why WWE’s Zeb Coulter’s and Jack Swagger’s Tea Party smack down of Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter is funny. This is why Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says the Republicans are becoming the “stupid party.” This is why they are such an easy target for David Letterman, Tina Fey, Julianne Moore, most of the press corp, the entire Hollywood establishment and their award system. This is why 65% of Americans today, when asked to give a word or short phrase to describe the Republican Party in an NBC/Wall Street  Journal poll, offered a negative comment.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bring back Mark Sanford

By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 2/21/13

There are probably more kinds of stupid but two especially come to mind: Stupid of the head like Chuck Hagel’s visions of Israel, and stupid of the heart, like Mark Sanford's. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said recently that the Republican Party is in danger of becoming the “stupid party.” (Possibly sinfully, irretrievably stupid: See Bill O’Reilly’s on his upcoming book, “Killing Jesus.”) Sanford’s sin is not of the head but another place. Press today tells that Sanford will be running for office again in spite of his recent "peccadilloes" - not the word I would have chosen. He feels reformed enough to reenter politics. He should be allowed back into the world. Because before there was a Tea Party and before Texas Governor Rick Perry chanted "states rights’,  states’ rights, states’ rights . . . “ at the Alamo, there was one man standing alone in opposition: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

And his campaign should certainly feature that one moment; a historic moment really captured on C Span, when Governor Sanford travelled alone to Washington, D.C. to politely and genuinely plead to a Congressional committee to stop sending him money. It was destroying his state. They kept sending money and making him make things and build things that Washington wanted them to have, but it was not anything they needed or wanted. Then he had to pay the money back.  Who do you think you are? They asked, hyperventilating contempt at southern man. Really.  But soon other governors, starting with Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, would join him. Then all in a night, Sanford disappeared.

 Sanford’s greatest crime was in reading The Thorn Birds, a smaltsy love novel set on a fictional sheep station in the Australian outback, and feeling his spirit soar. The descent then to the deeper realms of burning love inevitable. But like oh so many men of his age – around 50 at the time of the peccadillo (classic) - his head was remarkably clear on the more professional matters. Indeed, had he not descended below the beltway, he would probably have been running for president in 2012.

He was the first to publically warn that hard as it is to believe, not everyone in politics wants a free lunch. In December, 2008, Perry joined him on the pages of The Wall Street Journal and a movement was born when they asked other governors to join in with them:

“As governors and citizens, we've grown increasingly concerned over the past weeks as Washington has thrown bailout after bailout at the national economy with little to show for it. . . In the process, the federal government is not only burying future generations under mountains of debt. It is also taking our country in a very dangerous direction -- toward a ‘bailout mentality’ where we look to government rather than ourselves for solutions.”

South Carolina is a very great state but still laboring under a red neck curse, and it badly needs a political makeover. As governor, Sanford has brought progress.  I propose a package deal: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley prepare now for a run for the Presidency in 2016 (Nikki Haley/Ted Cruz 2016). The brilliant and capable Jenny Sanford takes over the governor's office (and prepare for the presidency in 2020). And Mark Sanford goes on to the House.

A better reading list for Mark Sanford: Willa Cather’s My √Āntonia, Charles Frazier’s, Cold Mountain, Ida M.  Tarbell’s All in a Day’s Work.