Accepting Reality: the US Politics Edition

It is interesting to see how far partisans are willing to stretch (or flatly deny) obvious facts. I don’t know what motivates either David Luchins or some of the commenters (notably Charles Hall), but I don’t think either is being objective or even particularly rational. [On one point I agree with Dr. Luchins (whom I know personally and respect greatly) entirely: if you're going to disagree with someone in a public forum, you should be willing to tie your name to your work. That's a post for another time, but I will request and require that comments to this post be accompanied by the author's real name in order to be published.]

I will start with Israel, because that’s where the discussion of Dr. Luchin’s article has led.

It is true that Obama not visiting Israel, by itself, is not particularly troublesome. But the fact that Israel’s Interior Ministry approved a tender for previously-approved settlement construction during Biden’s visit has never before been equated (by anyone even remotely pro-Israel) with bad treatment of Biden, much less exploited to justify the deliberate mistreatment of Netanyahu by Obama himself.

Speaking of settlements, what truly beggars explanation is why Obama infamously demanded a settlement freeze as a prerequisite for further negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians — rather than something to be negotiated. This is perhaps the single most significant American political misstep in the entire misguided peace process. Meaning, until now at least the Americans were doing everything they could to keep the negotiations moving. Obama, by comparison, required that Israel stop building on land that all previous administrations understood that Israel would keep (something which Obama himself purported to understand, in his reference to “land swaps”). Abbas himself blamed this on Obama to Newsweek:

He told me bluntly that Obama had led him on, and then let him down by failing to keep pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank last year. “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze,” Abbas explained. “I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump. Three times he did it.”

It is true that the resulting complete halt in these “negotiations” is about the best possible outcome for Israel. This was the “attempt to ‘shrink Israel'” to which Dr. Luchins referred. [I should add that I have found no indication that Condoleeza Rice said the goal was to "shrink Israel" or anything of the kind, and, if so, it is unjustified to put these words in her mouth; she was apparently discussing the peace negotiations, which we pro-Israel partisans (realists) recognize means Israel giving up more territory for terrorist bases. It was Bill Clinton, of course, who got this particular ball rolling, early in his first term.] The Obama-induced halt, though indeed the best those with more realistic eyesight could hope for, is evidence not of Obama favoring Israel, but of his utter lack of experience and wisdom, his ineptness, and quite possibly his antipathy.

Romney, for his part, will quite possibly not seek to restart those negotiations — but for entirely different reasons, ones vastly more in accordance with our own. You see, Obama was caught on an open microphone sharing how little he likes dealing with Netanyahu, and (at the very least) silently acquiescing to Sarkozy’s claim that Bibi is a liar. Romney, on the other hand, was caught on hidden camera saying that it is obvious that the Palestinians do not truly want peace, and remain committed to the destruction of Israel — and for that reason, “this is going to remain an unsolved problem.” One who fails to appreciate the difference between the two really does not need a voting booth, but a padded room.

Can Charles Hall document for us how many other state leaders made a specific request to meet with Obama during the UN GA session? Can he document how many leaders volunteered to travel to Washington, DC for that specific purpose? Obama slammed the door on Netanyahu, which even Reuters, hardly known for pro-Israel partisanship, called a “snub” and a “highly unusual rebuff to a close ally.”

As far as the claim that the evidence of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Semitism relies upon a few “possibly out of context videos,” and we could find similar videos of Orthodox Rabbis if filming were allowed on Shabbos… well, let’s have a brief look at what it is Mr. Hall is dismissing.

As reported by the Daily Press of Hampton Roads, VA, Wright showed up at the annual Hampton University Minister’s Conference shortly after his former congregant took office. Wright told the paper that he’d like to talk to Obama, but:

“Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me,” Wright said. “I told my baby daughter that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office. …

“They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is. … I said from the beginning: He’s a politician; I’m a pastor. He’s got to do what politicians do.”

Wright also said Obama should have sent a U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Racism held recently in Geneva, Switzerland, but that the president did not for fear of offending Jews and Israel. He specifically cited the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.

“Ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing (by) the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity, and they don’t want Barack talking like that because that’s anti-Israel,” Wright said.

I’m sure that was out of context.

Earlier this year, Wright was one of the backers and advisers of the “Global March to Jerusalem,” an attempt to organize a massive march to “Palestine” in order to stop what it called “the deliberate and systematic attempts to expel and reduce the Christian and Muslim Palestinian population of the city [of Jerusalem] as part of the policy called ‘Judaisation,’ which is being applied to every part of historic Palestine.”

In addition to the Reverend Wright, other participants in the “global march” included Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Muslim Brotherhood. The logo of the march features an image of the entirety of Israel in Hamas green. Was that out of context, too?

Considering how Obama has acted towards Netanyahu and Israel, it is only rational to question the sincerity of his disavowal of the minister upon whom his family depended for spiritual guidance for two decades.

But needless to say, that’s not all that Obama has “accomplished.”

He promised us a new era in Muslim-American relations, given his own background. As Egyptians were throwing objects at the American Embassy in Cairo, the embassy, under guidance from Obama’s state department, demonstrated its friendship by continuing to issue comments on Twitter to disavow and apologize for the publication of a YouTube video disrespectful of Mohammed. When the Libyan ambassador was murdered, the administration claimed that this was more of the same, a protest about the video. They kept this up for over two weeks, despite the fact that there is not a single report to document that protesters surrounded the Libyan embassy — as the administration has now admitted, it was a full-scale terrorist military assault on the compound, expressly targeting the Ambassador, conducted by Al-Qaeda terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11.

The first murder of an American ambassador in three decades came in the wake of the failure of the State Department to approve the continued higher levels of protection which, according to Eric Nordstrom, the top security official in Libya earlier this year, and Lt. Col. Andrew Wood, who led a Site Security Team of 16 soldiers in Libya, was urgently needed. As Nordstrom told a congressional hearing on Wednesday, “all of us at post were in sync that we wanted these resources.” The person most responsible for declining the request, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Charlene Lamb, told Nordstrom that “there would be too much political cost” to extending the presence of the security team. True to form, she also refused to call the attackers “terrorists” even when asked directly by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana.

According to Obama’s deputy campaign manager, the “entire reason” this is a political issue is “because of Mitt Romney” — not, of course, because it evidences an appalling, but entirely consistent, placement of political appearances ahead of American lives.

Why do I call it consistent? Because from the beginning, Obama has been nothing more than political appearance. He had no record, merely “hope and change.” Having discussed foreign policy, let’s see how that played out at home.

Obama promised us bipartisan action to create jobs. Instead he gave us ObamaCare, a singularly partisan effort which we were told we would have to approve so we could find out what’s in it, and which the people of Massachusetts (which had preferred Obama over McCain by over 25 percentage points in 2008) gave Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat to a Republican in a desperate attempt to halt. As summed up by Dr. Barbara Bellar, a physician, college professor, lawyer, Army major, and state senate candidate in Illinois:

We are going to be gifted with a health care plan that we are forced to purchase, and fined if we don’t, which reportedly covers 10 million more people without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman doesn’t understand it, passed by Congress, that didn’t read it, but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a president who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes, for which we will be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government which has bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese and financed by a country that is broke.

So what the blank could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one, we are already losing jobs. Multiple restaurants, in particular, are already trying to keep hourly workers under 30 hours in order to avoid ObamaCare coverage requirements. This is not because they are callous about their workers, but because ObamaCare will slash already thin profit margins in half, overnight.

Immediately after the passage of ObamaCare, AT&T announced that it would take a $1 billion charge against its earnings due to resulting tax changes, slashing its profitability by one third. Democrats in Congress reacted by threatening to hold hearings demanding that AT&T explain itself.

Apparently, Obama’s supporters are unable to discern why employers are reluctant to hire more full-time workers in the current environment, instead doing everything they can to hold people to part-time work, resulting in not only high levels of unemployment, but even higher levels of underemployment as well. This isn’t rocket science.

Oh… and one other point. If we learned last week how little the President has to say for himself, we learned last night that the man a heartbeat from the presidency is about as professional and courteous as a schoolyard bully. He knew that the candidate to replace him knew the current administration’s multiple areas of incompetence, had concrete plans to improve matters, and could express them articulately if given the opportunity to complete a sentence. It is little wonder that preventing Ryan from doing so was Biden’s primary goal.

If you are looking for another four years of a sick economy, of unfulfilled dreams of the same number of doctors treating 10 million more people for less money, of enemies around the world exploiting American weakness, and an American relationship with Israel going from bad to worse, by all means, vote to reelect Obama.

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14 comments to Accepting Reality: the US Politics Edition

  • L. Oberstein

    For once, you and I are ,at the moment, both supporting the same candidate.I do not agree with most of what the Republican Platform advocates and find their total devotion to the 1%, whom they like to call “small businesses” to be a facile way of hiding their agenda, to destroy the New Deal,The Fair Deal and the Great Society,as much as they possibly can. Romney honestly believes what he said at that “Parlor Meeting’ where he was surreptiociously recorded. The party today is not remotely connected to the Republican Party that was progressive and advocated many worthwhile social programs, including what you call “socialized medicine” under Nixon. The Tea Party scares me and it is not my desire to identify with them.
    That being said, I am a Jew who values Eretz Yisroel and whose son is a chayal in tzahal who will be based in Jenin, as of next week. Therefore, I am most reluctantly going to cast my vote for Romney. That is because I agree 100% with his assessment of the Arab stance , he said what he believes and what many know is true. They don’t want any State of Israel and do not accept our right to exist in any portion of their part of the world. They deny not only the Holocaust,but the presence of Jews in Israel in ancient times or the existence of the Bais Hamikdash. Who can negotiate with such lunatics?

    I also do not believe that Obama understands in his gut the situation. He is not in my opinion, an anti semite by any means and he is not an enemy of the Jewish People or of the existence of Israel. He is of the same opinion as many Israelis, of the Yossi Beilin camp, that Israel will only save itself if the US practices tough love and forces it to do what it has to do to survive. Beinart is a spokesman for those who love Israel so much they want to force it to leave the occupied territiories.
    Obama, like many neophytes, who become President before they are ready, naively thought that he could make peace in Israel by what he did at the beginning of his term. He was very wrong and set back negotiations by what he did. He messed up big time there and elsewhere. He didn’t deserve a Nobel Peace Prize just because his intentions were good,even if his actions were counter-productive.

    Personally, I wish that Shimon Peres would be right but ,at the moment, I don’t see Israel being accepted as the Singapore of the Middle East and accepted as a legitimate inhabitant of that part of the world. I am scared to death of what is going on in the Moslim world and hope that somehow,some way, the less extreme elements keep those millions of people from their self destructive hatred of not only Jews but of anyone who has another opinion. Shooting a 14 girl in Pakistan should wake up those of us who want to kiss and make up. I haven’t changed my opinion, as much as I have reassessed reality.
    I am not a racist and not a bigot and think that Jews should be very careful of how they talk about other groups here and abroad. We walk a fine line in golus and we need Heavenly Mercy at this stage.

  • david luchins

    Reb Yaakov, I suggest you google the words “Rice” and “Shrink Israel” and see for yourself if I put any words into her mouth. Last I checked she was the Queen of Republican foreign policy and the Rev. Wright was an utter pariah in this Administration. Think Obama was wrong to push settlement freeze and Bush was wrong to be first President to call for a Palestinian state, demand that Israel allow Hamas to run in the PLO elections, micromanage the removal of Israeli checkpoints because they reminded our Secretary of State of her childhood in segregated Birmingham and demand that Sharon pull every Israeli soldier out of Gaza( Rice’s stunning Autobiography , googling “Rice” and “Shrink Israel” and Gil Troy’s piece on the “disengagement” will document all the above. Frankly, Israel is a wash in this election. Which leaves domestic issues….

  • Yaakov Menken

    Actually, that’s what I had done, as directed. It’s putting words in her mouth.

    And even were Rice as negative towards Israel as Obama, Rice is not Romney (while, needless to say, Obama remains Obama). What Romney himself thinks has been caught on hidden camera, and Mother Jones is very proud to show its left-wing audience how terrible Romney is because he thinks the Palestinians don’t really want peace, and do want to destroy Israel. In other words, more than any other president or presidential candidate in memory, with the possible exception of John McCain (“Someone is going to have to answer me the question of how you are going to negotiate with an organization that is dedicated to your extinction”), he apparently understands the truth about the Middle East… and is a personal friend of Netanyahu, who will likely remain Prime Minister and whom Obama can’t stand.

    I’m glad Dr. Luchins believes the Rev. Wright to be a “pariah” simply because the Obamas left his church under intense political pressure. In 2007, Obama praised Wright as a “friend and great leader.” Just a year later, he tried to condemn Wright’s comments while defending Wright, before being forced to jettison him to keep his candidacy alive — and not because of Wright’s comments about Israel. Let’s be completely honest: if Obama had been a steady congregant of a white minister whose remarks were even half that poisonous, Obama’s political career would look like David Duke’s, and for good reason.

    If Romney acts upon his privately-stated beliefs, he will make GW Bush practically look unfriendly by comparison, perhaps almost as much as Obama is in comparison to GWB. But either way, “Israel is a wash in this election” is wishful thinking from a dedicated Democrat; objectively it’s simply untrue.

  • david luchins

    “Dedicated Democrat”? Alas, is that what this has come down to? Name calling? First the race card (“if wright were only white”) and now this. I worked for Nixon, campaigned for Goodell, Dole, Pataki and D”Amato. Voted for more Republicans in my life than Democrats in statewide elections in NY. Lord Palmerston once opined “Her majesty’s Government has no permanent friends and no permanent enemies-only permanent interests” So should we.And we choose to disagree on what they are . No need to get Down!

  • Yaakov Menken

    Oh please. Name-calling? A close staffer, if not chief of staff, of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s for two decades should hardly resent being termed a dedicated Democrat. Would “career Democrat” be better? I agree with him that Pataki and D’Amato were far better than the alternatives, but call me unconvinced. Since there are no logical reasons to imagine that Obama and Romney are merely equal as far as their friendliness to Israel, and a mountain of evidence to the contrary, I admit it leaves me scratching my head as to why Dr. Luchins might imagine it to be so.

    Now as far as “playing the race card,” does the hypocrisy know no bounds? What I said was factually accurate, and in a truly race-blind world Obama’s career wouldn’t exist as a result of his association with Wright (among other reasons).

    Meanwhile, for claiming that Obama was too “lazy” and “disengaged” to prepare for his debate against Romney, NH Governor John Sununu was called a “racist,” although his assessment had nothing to do with dated stereotypes and everything to do with the fact that Obama himself called debate preparation “a drag” and spent his time at the Hoover Dam instead.

    If you want to see where the race card is being played, just Google “Stacey Dash” and you will no longer wonder why 0% — literally, 0% — of Black Americans are willing to admit to unnamed callers (claiming to be pollsters) that they plan to vote for Romney. Barbara Walters (hardly a Republican operative) said it directly on The View, that the attacks on Dash are specifically because she’s a black woman and not supporting the black candidate.

  • Daniel

    Rabbi Menken: Too strung out; focus on your best arguments; stick to the issue of Israel.

    We know that conservatives tend to take Israel’s side, and that liberals tend to take the palestianian side. We know that about half or more of the attendance at the DNC take the palestinian side.

    That much is not debatable. And should tell us something about the democrats we elect.

    I get that Dr. Luchins thinks that nevertheless Obama will help us, either because he thinks it is in America’s best interest or because he thinks the electorate likes it. But the electorate is no longer relevant after the election. We can still bicker about predicting what he will do. The only point I think he should agree with me, is that it is delusional to continue thinking that Democrat politicians personally take Israel’s side in this fight.

  • Mr. Cohen

    Yaakov Menken said:
    Obama was caught on an open microphone sharing how little he likes dealing with Netanyahu, and (at the very least) silently acquiescing to Sarkozy’s claim that Bibi is a liar.

    Romney, on the other hand, was caught on hidden camera saying that it is obvious that the Palestinians do not truly want peace, and remain committed to the destruction of Israel — and for that reason, “this is going to remain an unsolved problem.”

    Excellent! Excellent! Excellent!

    It was worth writing that entire article just for those two sentences.

  • david luchins

    The vsast majority of elected officials of both parties are pro-Israel.Just ask AIPAC! Also , Reb Daniel, I thought only people willing to sign their full names were invited to comment on Yaakov’s’increasingly shrill opinionsl

  • Daniel

    Thank you Dr. Luchins.

    I am aware that is AIPAC’s position; I believe that is an attempt to avoid politicizing Israel–which I think is a good idea. I do not support writing articles like this one. However, I know that my liberal friends do not support Israel, while my conservative friends do. And I know that op-eds written by liberals do not support Israel, while the likes of Charles Krauthammer do. I think the old liberals like Alan Dershowitz who supported Israel are becoming an anachronism (did I use that word correctly? I didn’t go to college.)

    I don’t post my full name because of employment concerns, but if you must know, my official title in Orthodox circles is Rav.

  • Tal Benschar

    The vast majority of elected officials of both parties are pro-Israel.Just ask AIPAC!

    This raises something I wanted to comment on. Putting aside Obama and his administration, it should be clear to any objective observer that support for Israel is becoming more and more of a partisan distinction. On the Republican side, I think there is a deep, grass-roots sympathy for Israel, mostly as a Western country facing a sea of Islamic opposition and terrorism, and to some extent for Christian eschatological reasons. Not surprisingly, most Republican politicians follow suit.

    On the Democratic side, OTOH, although many politicians are sympathetic, the grass-roots support is on the wane. This summer’s fiasco over the Jerusalem plank is one symptom of this phenomenum — the majority of delegates were hostile to that plank, and it was only the Orwellian intervention of the Democratic party chairwoman (that told the person to count the voice-vote as supporting) that saved the day. This seems to me part and parcel of the general trend in both the US and abroad — with some notable exceptions, those on the right tend to be more sympathetic and those on the less more antagonistic to Israel, and the trend appears to be deepening.

    I can see how for Jews, even Orthodox Jews, of a certain generation, this can make them very uncomfortable, but I think it is reality.

    Lord Palmerston once opined “Her majesty’s Government has no permanent friends and no permanent enemies-only permanent interests” So should we.

    Yes, that is precisely the point that many of us have been making. There seems to be, in many Jewish circles, including many Orthodox circles, and almost knee-jerk devotion to the Democratic party. That might have made sense in 1930 or even 1970, but one wonders whether it make sense today.

  • Bob Miller

    We should not exonerate the Presidents Bush and their foreign policy people for their own acts against Israel, but President Obama has done far more damage and plans yet more if we don’t retire him.

  • L. Oberstein

    What if Obama does win re-election and he remembers that we were against him? Isn’t it important for some orthodox Jews to have entre to his circle? I don’t know about Axelrod, who was raised secular, if not leftist,but, Jack Lew is a shomer shabbos Jew. As chief of staff, he sees the President more than anyone else every day, I think. I am not voting for him this time but I do think chances are he will be re-elected and I am concerned that we have burned bridges to the Leader of the Free World.
    As far as not supporting the Democrats, what makes one think that either party today is doing what is in the best interests of the people. Both are dominated by wealthy donors with agendas. Members of Congress and others who regulate aspire to make money when they leave and are open to influence peddlers. Long term planning for energy independence, long term solutions to medicare bankruptsy,an immigration policy that would allow in guest workers to pick our crops and scientists to keep America number one are just a few of the issues that can’t be dealt with in a reasonable way. I don’t care if it is a Republican or a Democratic solution as long as it works, but we have gridlock. I find the almost universal disdain for the Democratic Party by many heimishe yiddin to be overblown. Sure, they want a lot of things we don’t,but that is not all that the party stands for. The Republicans have their issues also. I wish we could do away with both of these tired and corrup parties and have a better system that was not so dominated by money from rich people with agendas. Why pretend we have democracy when the very rich have the power and we are pawns.

  • Bob Miller

    Why pretend we are pawns? We still have some leverage as a voting bloc.

  • L. Oberstein

    No matter which party is the majority, they need hundreds of millions of dollars to advertise and campaign. Does anything think that the billionairs give money without expecting something in return?
    Every study shows that the top earners are doing better than ever financially and the rest of the country has stagnant or declinging income.
    Democracy shouldn’t work this way.We should be able to elect the most qualified people to govern us and instead we have candidates who can pass an endurance test equvilant to a triathelon. Have you ever wondered why there are no really great leaders anywhere in the world today? To run for office in the USA one has to be able to look good, raise lots of money and pander to the base and what Eisenhauer called the Military Industrial Complex. Congress is deadlocked and reapportionment has made it worse than ever. Districts are so polarized that a moderate doesn’t stand a chance in many districts.
    Aside from that, thank G-d, we have a democratic tradition in this country and free elections which change parties from time to time.It could be worse. As far as voting blocs are concerned, Jews used to be 4% of the US population, now they are 2% and New York is not a swing state any longer,nor is California. The biggst leverage is in local elections and the fact that many of the fat cats are Jewish.That AIPAC is so strong has a lot to do with the wealth of many of their leaders and how they spread their donations.