The Other Obama-Romney Debate


by David Luchins

[Editor’s note: Mishpacha has hosted a fascinating exchange about the attractiveness of President Obama’s candidacy to the Orthodox community. The combatants have been our own Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum and Dr. David Luchins. Jonathan is a regular contributor to Mishpacha, and did have some home-turf advantage. While Mishpacha did allow Dr Luchins to respond through a lengthy letter to the editor, it was still edited for size. Since Jonathan’s Mishpacha article was republished on Cross-Currents, David asked us for the right to respond with the full, unedited response he had prepared, and also to allow a fuller flow of comments than Mishpacha could handle as a print medium. We are happy, of course, to allow the reciprocity]

I was flattered to see that my wise friend Yonasan Rosenblum felt I could make “the best case” for re-electing President Obama (Mishpacha, September 3, 2012), but I do wish he had stayed to the end of the debate, when I addressed several of the points he raises in the article.

Yonasan is correct that I have not voted for a second term President since Richard Nixon in 1972, when, on Hubert Humprey’s personal recommendation, I was the youngest National Vice Chair of Democrats for Nixon. But my reason was hardly because second term Presidents “stick it to Israel”. On the contrary, I’d be hard pressed to say that Ronald Reagan’s second term (visits Bittburg and recognizes the PLO) was nearly as “bad” for Israel as his first (sells AWACs to Saudis; tears up the agreement to share US intelligence with Israel when they have the temerity to bomb the Iraqi reactor, forcing them to pay Pollard for information they had been promised; and saves Arafat from Sharon in Beirut). I think second terms tend to be bad (see Clinton, William J; Bush, George W.) independent of the Israel issue.

Similarly, my point about Dr. Rice is hardly answered by saying she was as “bad as Hillary Clinton”. Read her autobiography or her speeches. Her criticism of Obama for “failing to shrink Israel,” as she boasts Bush did in Gaza, is chilling; as is her description of how she forced a weak Israeli government to allow Hamas into the PA elections. Why does this matter? I think it matters that she gave the major foreign policy address at the Republican Convention and that she, and her mentor Jim Baker, were the most prominent foreign policy figures at the biggest Romney fundraisers’ weekend in Utah.

Yonasan is correct that we all need to sacrifice. But our community would be devastated by the Ryan/Romney Budget cuts in Medicaid (nursing home care for the elderly, in particular), food stamps, healthcare, WIC, housing (including Section 8), Pell and Homeland Security Grants, poverty assistance and middle class tax deductions, in order to provide millionaire and billionaire Republican contributors with lavish tax cuts. I, for one, do not consider that “shared sacrifice”.

There is much, much more to say. It is sad that our politics are so polarized and dysfunctional, and yes, I fault President Obama for his votes as a Senator against raising the debt ceiling and confirming John Roberts, and his failure as President to embrace Simpson-Bowles or articulate policy goals to the American people as clearly as he should have. But, I find the Republican policy of demonization to be even more disturbing.

Yonasan apparently felt that my unvarnished critique of President Obama’s record suggested that I might not be voting for him. Quite the contrary, I suspect I am more comfortable with my vote this time around than the average Republican whose fancy flitted from Trump to Bachman, to Perry to Cain, to Santorum to Gingrich, until reluctantly accepting Romney. The President has done a superb job of fighting terror; strengthening the coalition against, and subversive activities within, Iran; protecting Israel at the United Nations and partially righting an economy that was in virtual free fall when he took the oath of office (including saving the domestic auto industry) over the strenuous objections of the Republicans in Congress.

I ended my debate presentation with a story. In March of 1991 Senator Moynihan and I were visiting with Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir when he asked the Senator “are you thinking of running for President?” When the Senator assured him that he had no such intentions, Shamir replied “good, then we can stay friends because it is very dangerous when the Prime Minister of Israel feels he can’t say “no” to his friend the President of the United States”.

I vastly prefer President Obama’s bad body language (and superb security cooperation) with Prime Minister Netanyahu, over a President Romney, backed by a rubber stamp one party Congress (as Bush enjoyed during the Gaza “disengagement”) calling on his “friend”, the Prime Minister of Israel accompanied by the likes of Jim Baker and Condi Rice.

Dr. David Luchins served for 20 years on the Staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and as a National Vice Chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. He has served as Chair of the Political Science Department of Touro College since 1978 and on the National Board of the OU since 1971. [Ed. unsolicited addition: He has distinguished himself in the latter role for his devotion to NCSY]. The views in this letter are his own, not those of any organization or institution he may be affiliated with.

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2 years 11 months ago

It is a fact that Rice pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in PA elections. It is also a fact that she comapared the Palestinian condition to South African Apartheid:
[Google: jta rice veep]

Reb Yid
2 years 11 months ago

If last night’s “debate” showed anything at all, it was Romney pretty much agreeing with Obama on his foreign policy, per Lawrence Reisman’s earlier post on the subject. No “daylight” to be found, that’s for sure.

Bob Miller
2 years 11 months ago

Rice was nearly as bad as Hillary Clinton with respect to Israel. At any rate, we already know Obama’s Israel policy is wrong on balance and even in tone. Romney’s has a significant chance of being better.

david luchins
2 years 11 months ago

Verily, I am starting to see the wisdom of those who have warned us of the dangers of the internet. I am saddened by the amount of time apparently intelligent people spend talking past each other in this echo chamber.

Lawrence M. Reisman
2 years 11 months ago

Rabbi Menken seems to ignore Rice’s record both as national security advisor and as secretary of state. She was no great friend of Israel, no matter what she writes in her memoirs. I do remember what the English language Israeli press wrote about her back then. Any case, I’m not arguing that President Obama is a great friend of Israel. All I argue is that US policy under him will not be substantially different than it would be under Mitt Romney. And given the Republican position on domestic issues, I’ll take the President over Mitt Rommey any time. (And let’s not get into “facts” presented by Rabbi Menken in his post. Massachusetts voters did not elect Scott Brown senator for the sole purpose of defeating Obamacare. Massachusetts voters have less stake in Obamacare than anyone else in the country, thanks to Romneycare, which no one in Massachusetts wants to repeal. And if you think Paul Ryan really has a plan to shrink Medicare growth, you have your own twist on facts that I can’t argue with.)