Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, Sunday, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Tomer Neuberg)

The NPR Fallout. Iran’s Attack. Plus. . .

A sneak peek from our debate in Dallas. Heartbreak for the ‘Golden Bachelor.’ And more.

Today from The Free Press, Olivia Reingold reports from our debate in Dallas, the NPR CEO’s old tweets come back to bite her, Suzy Weiss finds hope in the Golden Bachelor’s heartbreak, and more. 

But first, historian and former Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren on Iran’s attack on Israel this weekend. The first time Tehran has struck the Jewish state directly from Iranian soil marked the start of a dangerous new chapter of history in the Middle East. How did we get to this perilous moment? Here’s Michael on the U.S. foreign policy failings that emboldened Iran: 

How Did the War Begin? With Iran’s Appeasers in Washington

JERUSALEM — Historians writing years from now about the Middle East conflagration of 2024 will undoubtedly ask, “When did it all begin?” Some will point to the Bush administration which, demoralized by its inconclusive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, rejected Israel’s entreaties to take out Iran’s then-inchoate nuclear program in 2008.

Others might cite Israel’s willingness to play by the mullahs’ rules, retaliating against their Hezbollah and Hamas proxies rather than against Iran itself, enabling it to emerge from each round of fighting utterly unscathed. 

But the bulk of the blame, fair historians will likely agree, will have to fall on the policies of those in Washington who sought to appease Iran at almost any price and ignore its serial aggressions.

Those policies began in the week after President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January 2009. In one of the forty-fourth president’s first acts of foreign diplomacy, Obama sent an offer of reconciliation to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That June, in his historic Cairo speech, Obama became the first president to refer to Tehran’s regime as the Islamic Republic of Iran—legitimizing the oppressive theocracy—and stood aside while that republic’s thugs beat and shot hundreds of Iranian citizens protesting for their freedom.

Over the next four years, the White House ignored a relentless spate of Iranian aggressions—attacks against U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf; backing for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups dedicated to America’s destruction; and barely disguised efforts to undermine pro-Western Middle Eastern governments.


For more from The Free Press on Iran’s attack on Israel, read Matti Friedman’s dispatch from Jerusalem and Olivia Reingold’s report on the American progressives cheering for the Islamic Republic. 

Old Tweets Come Back to Bite NPR Boss

NPR has struggled to contain the fallout from the essay by Uri Berliner published in these pages last week. On Friday, NPR’s new CEO Katherine Maher issued a letter to staffers that skirted the substance of Uri’s concerns and instead called his character into question: “Questioning whether our people are serving our mission with integrity, based on little more than the recognition of their identity, is profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning,” she wrote. Of course, Uri did no such thing. Read the essay and judge for yourself. 

Now, with the world watching and wondering what has gone wrong at NPR, some inconvenient old tweets of Maher’s have resurfaced. 

Like this one about looting:

Or this one, with a selfie out campaigning for Biden. Or this one where she chided Hillary for using the phrase “boy and girl.” Or this one about “white silence.” Or this one about her “cis white mobility privilege.” 

Okay. But that last one is a joke, right? Right? Either way, it’s no wonder that a (publicly funded) news organization run by a person with these political reflexes isn’t as evenhanded and intellectually curious as it once was.

A Sneak Peek at Our Texas Immigration Debate

For those of you who, like me, were sitting at home last Thursday wishing you could have been at our debate on immigration in Dallas: fear not! The full video of the event will be available soon to paid subscribers of The Free Press. So if you’re not already a paid subscriber, become one today. In the meantime, here’s Olivia Reingold with a taste of what went down in Texas on Thursday:

In Dallas, Texas, last Thursday night, four people walked onto a stage: a libertarian, a recent dropout from the Democratic race for president, an economic populist, and Ann Coulter, who needs no introduction.

They were all asked a single question, which is also the No. 1 issue that will affect the 2024 election: Should the United States close its borders?

It’s the kind of topic that’s become impossible to talk about out loud and in public. One side accuses the other of xenophobia and racism; the other of lawlessness and cheating the electoral system. 

But at The Free Press, we believe that the issues that matter most to Americans are worth talking about in public, without fear. That’s why we partnered with FIRE to launch our new series, the America Debates, moderated by our founder, Bari Weiss.

So on Thursday at the Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas, we welcomed a crowd of 700 from states all over the nation including Utah, Indiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. We even met a few readers who flew in from London.

There were best friends from high school, women in cowboy boots, and married couples on either side of the issue—including Dr. Nina Niu Sanford, who immigrated to the U.S. from China at age three, and her husband, a native Texan born to a Mexican immigrant. (She voted in favor of America shutting its borders; he voted against.)

“If you want to hear an exchange of ideas it’s basically relegated to AM radio,” a pregnant woman from Rhode Island who flew 1,700 miles to the event told me. “But you never get people like this, just sitting on a stage together, hashing out ideas.” 

Jake Billings, a 34-year-old from Utah, said he arrived believing in an open border. But when he heard Ahmari list the ways Americans without college degrees get the short end of the stick because of illegal migration, he felt swayed in a different direction.

“He just laid out how it hurts the working class, which is where I come from,” said Billings, who shared that his mother was one of 13 kids. “What can I say? I’m a facts person.” 

Ten Stories We’re Reading 

  1. Israel-Arab normalization proves its worth. A new Middle East was on display in the skies above the region this weekend. (Commentary)

  2. Sen. John Fetterman splits with Biden on Israel. It’s “astonishing” the U.S. isn’t standing firm with Israel, he said. (CNN

  3. What the Trump abortion clash is really about. Dave Weigel dives into the details of reproductive rights during a second Trump term. (Semafor

  4. The West must remember how to fight, writes Zoe Strimpel. “We are too narcissistic and bored, too cosseted and ill-focused to be collectively courageous—or warlike.” (The Telegraph)

  5. Why Joe Biden won’t tackle the stubborn problem of inflation. John Cochrane unpacks the wishful thinking in the White House. (The Grumpy Economist)

  6. Florida was braced for a wave of migrants from Haiti. What happened? (Sun Sentinel)

  7. Donald Trump tried everything to avoid a criminal trial. The day has arrived. (WSJ

  8. Right-wing media is in trouble, too. Traffic to top conservative sites is down 40 percent. (The Atlantic)

  9. Japan’s native-born population is shrinking at record speed. The number of Japanese nationals falls by 100 people every hour, new data shows. (FT)

  10. Argentine president Javier Milei has broken up with his girlfriend, the actress Fatima Florez. “We decided to end our relationship and maintain a bond of friendship, given how we feel about each other and how much we love, respect, and admire each other,” he said on X. (Barron’s)

Also On Our Radar

→ What Brendan Eich did next: A decade ago, Brendan Eich was forced to resign as CEO of Mozilla, the software company he founded, after he made small donations to groups campaigning against same-sex marriage in California. Eich’s ouster was an early example of the contemporary cancel culture we have come to know all too well. But, as Andrew Beck writes in a piece for First Things marking the ten-year anniversary of that departure, Eich has refused to be defined by his cancellation: 

I am not here to complain about cancel culture. Brendan Eich does not. He is too busy. He refuses to be defined by the evil done to him, or by the purported heterodoxy of his beliefs, but by the work he does and by his character, as known by those closest to him.

Rather than taking to the airwaves and leaning into the role of martyr, as have so many others who have endured similar abuse, Eich never speaks publicly about the wrong done to him—not once even in private to me. Instead, he diligently pursues his vocation.

Read the full article here. Of note: Marc Andreessen, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who was a Facebook board member at the time, offered a tech titan’s mea culpa. He said in a tweet, “I regret not doing more to support and defend Brendan then. I should have realized what it meant and what was to follow. I do not intend to make that mistake again.” 

→ Homicides are plummeting in U.S. cities: After years of alarming rises, homicide rates are finally falling in America’s cities—and fast, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Journal notes that “if the trend continues, the U.S. could be on pace for a year like 2014, which saw the lowest homicide rate since the 1960s.” Here’s that good news in chart form: 

→ Golden heartbreak: Gerry Turner, star of The Golden Bachelor—the dating show’s spinoff for older singles—and the winner of the show, Theresa Nist, broke off their marriage after three months. They announced it last week on Good Morning America. I didn’t watch any of The Golden Bachelor—I wish I could say I was reading the classics, but I was probably on YouTube—but the fact that the couple broke up proves the point of the show. Let me explain.

The thrust of The Golden Bachelor was that older adults still got it—they still want love, they still have sex, they can date and break hearts and get jealous just like the young bucks in bikinis. The fact that they broke up after such a short run proves the point further: old people can be fickle, fame-hungry, and craven too. If Gerry and Theresa ended up in matching rocking chairs under crocheted blankets, it would’ve confirmed our patronizing idea of old age. Instead, they had a TV wedding and then parted ways. If we’re lucky, there will be tell-all memoirs, compromising paparazzi shots, Instagram brand deals, and the rest of the riches and indignities that come with D-list stardom. I had my doubts about The Golden Bachelor, but in the end, it showed that older singles have as much range as their 20-year-old counterparts.Suzy Weiss

→ A fighter and a scholar: We have a new favorite UFC fighter at The Free Press. Okay, we have our first favorite UFC fighter. His name is Renato Moicano, he’s from Brazil, and, in a victory speech after a fight this weekend he waxed lyrical about his love of America, the First Amendment, and private property before ending with a reading recommendation. “If you care about your fucking country, read Ludwig von Mises and the six lessons of the Austrian economic school, motherfuckers.” You can’t make this stuff up. Watch the whole thing here. 

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman.

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