Letter to an Outgoing President


[by Rabbi Meyer May, Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and President of the Rabbinical Council of California. This letter was hand-delivered to President Bush a few days ago. The text also appears this week in Hamodia.]

Dear President Bush,

By way of introduction, I am the Executive Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (warm regards to you from Rabbi Hier) and President of the Rabbinical Council of California. I am writing to you from the depths of my heart because how much I wanted to, I was not able to express these sentiments to you in person.

Mr. President, as an Orthodox Jew and rabbi, I am schooled in clarity of focus and a clear unequivocal moral compass which is rooted in my faith. I know someone with such clarity and with such an unequivocal moral compass when I see him. You, Mr. President, have these! Indeed, you have epitomized these qualities never wavering no matter how vicious and hurtful the political and personal attacks have been. No doubt, your faith guided you and you let it!

Your steadfast determination to rid the Iraqi people and the world of the murderous Sadam Hussein, and your recognition of Yasser Arafat for the terrorist that he was demonstrated your crystal clear view of what is just and what is not. Surely, you know what you accomplished in Iraq and history will be kind to you, I am sure, though many in our time refuse to acknowledge your difficult success there. Thank you for your clarity!

And, I am proud that my President showed an infinite compassion for the AIDS victims in Africa. The scale and scope of your efforts in this humanitarian crisis, leaves me further in awe of you and your presidency. Thank you for your humanity!

Mr. President, your response in the wake of 9/11 to the threat to our freedom and every human value we hold dear will long be remembered as one of your singular successes. That our country was not attacked again during your administration is a credit to your leadership and determination to deny evil its victory. Thank you for that clarity, too!

And, Mr. President, your pure unequivocal love for the State of Israel and respect for her enormous accomplishments, despite the constant existential threats she faces, was so beautifully and movingly demonstrated by your memorable speeches I had the privilege to hear when we joined together to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary in Jerusalem. But it was your consistent actions to support her, as late as this week that will forever endear you to me. Your impeccable sense of right and wrong and refusal to allow terrorists to claim moral equivalency with a peace loving democracy like Israel will especially be the hallmark of your tenure as President. Israel had no better friend than you. And the same can be said for the entire Jewish People. Thank you for your devotion!

In short, Mr. President, you have warmed and inspired me and I bid you farewell as my President with a sense of relief for you that you can take a well-deserved break from the helm of our planet, but a tinge of sadness, too, that we will be losing your steady hand and noble, purity of vision as the leader of the free world.

But even in this seamless transition, which is the strength of our great American democracy, you and the First Lady have shown such class
— we Jews call it, “Mentchlechkeit” — as you welcomed my next President and our future First Lady with grace and kindness to their soon-to-be home in the White House. Even to the end of your term, you have leant dignity and honor to your High Office.

Mr. President, you and Mrs. Bush don’t know me, but I hope that you and your elegant First Lady will count me forever among your friends!

Thank you,

Rabbi Meyer H. May

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6 years 8 months ago

LER: Also, because troops and resources were held in reserve for Iraq rather than being sent to Afghanistan, Bin Ladin and the Taliban were allowed to escape to Pakistan and create a worse threat than before.

Ori: I asked this in a forum that’s frequented by members of the military (KratSkeller in Baen’s Bar, bar.baen.com, if anybody wants to verify).

The people there claimed Afghanistan couldn’t support a larger number of US troops, due to its bad infrastructure – alos the reason the USSR, may it rest in pieces, couldn’t keep it. Since 2001 the allies built up the Afghan infrastructure to where it will be able to sustain the logistics of a modern military – but that had to be done before committing a large number of troops to the area.

I can’t prove this is true, but it makes sense.

6 years 8 months ago

Rabbi May’s letter is another example of how many of us in the Orthodox community are willing to give a Republican president a pass on actions for which they would vilify a Democrat. Let’s not forget that George Bush was the first U.S. president to openly call for a Palestinian state without asking for anything in return. (Bill Clinton never made such a declaration publicly.) Also, he pressured Ariel Sharon to accept the “Road Map” and pressured Sharon to withdraw his forces from the West Bank in 2002 after they entered in response to the bombing at the seder in Natanya.

I also don’t see much “mentchlechkeit” in a president who told Iraqi insurgents who attack U.S. troops to “bring it on”, who refused to give up his vacation time to listen to the CIA’s warnings before 9/11, who was completely unaware of how bad a mess New Orleans was in after hurricane Katrina until an aide sat him down several days later and showed him a DVD of the news (that was especially made for him), or who tells people who can’t afford health insurance that there’s always the emergency room.

Also, let’s not forget that it was Bush’s “clarity” to get rid of Saddam Hussien that actually left both the U.S. and Israel less safe. As evil as Saddam was, he was Iran’s worst enemy and his threat kept Iran preoccupied. Removing him has left Iran free to both to create all sorts of new problems for Israel and around the globe. Also, because troops and resources were held in reserve for Iraq rather than being sent to Afghanistan, Bin Ladin and the Taliban were allowed to escape to Pakistan and create a worse threat than before.

I am sorry but I feel there very little for which Mr. bush deserves a “hakoras hatov”.

6 years 8 months ago

L. Oberstein:Historians say that Roosevelt’s programs didn’t end the Depression either.So, maybe there is no easy way out.

Ori: Some historians and economists go as far as to say that FDR’s programs caused the Great Depression to be great. There were other recessions and depressions prior to that, in which the government did not intervene. Usually, they ended a lot faster.

This is probably not the forum for economic discussions that are not specific to the Jewish community, and anyway I don’t know enough to argue this point by point. However, I think judging people favorably is a Jewish concern. Members of the house of representatives who agree with the theory that FDR’s policies prolonged the depression are obligated to vote against the latest economic bailout bill. This explanation of the Republican vote is every bit as likely as the assumption of malice.

BTW, bipartisanship is not dead. 11 Democrats also voted against this bill too.

L. Oberstein
6 years 8 months ago

Herbert Hoover is not really irrelevant,although few people know enough history to appreciate him. His aaproach to the Depression was the opposite of Roosevelt. Hands off vs. gov’t programs. Now 100% of the House Republicans voted against the program to save our country from ruin. All they want is more tax breaks and less gov’t regulation. That is how we got into this mess. The President was a statesman and they were so afraid of their “base” that they did nto budge an inch . To the House Republicans, compromise is a dirty word. Historians say that Roosevelt’s programs didn’t end the Depression either.So, maybe there is no easy way out. However, in a time when we need statesmen, the House Republicans have let all Amercans down. That is what happens when partisanship trumps the needs of the nation. Eric Cantor is going places and some day, all you Jewish Repuboicans will be real proud of him. I know that he has a shomer shabbos brother. Tine will tell. The problem is that the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world want Obama to fail.Shame on them.

6 years 8 months ago

Tzafania: Why did President Bush force the Gush Katif Expulsion on the people of Israel.

Ori: Did President Bush force the Gush Katif Expulsion on the government of Israel? I don’t recall at the time any indication of US pressure on Olmert’s government.

Tzafania: Why did his strong moral compass not push him with all his might to stop the Government of Israel from committing that awful atrocity?

Ori: Last time I checked, Israel was a sovereign nation. If the people of Israel elect a prime minister who makes bad decisions, why do you expect the US to come in and fix things?