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A Presidential Failure To Communicate


As millions of gallons of oil continue to leak into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the impatience and helplessness of Americans continue to grow. Never before has such a significant issue relating to our country’s environmental health been at the mercy of a faulty valve. This unprecedented experience has humbled engineers, scientists and bureaucrats alike.

As the oil flowed unabated, Democratic strategist and Louisiana native James Carville publicly railed against the White House, accusing it of not being responsive enough to the crisis in the Gulf.

President Obama, who campaigned as the champion of ordinary Americans, had hoped, as all presidents do, that his press conference would reassure frustrated citizens that he and his administration – not BP Global – were in charge and on top of the disaster. In attempting to do so, however, he again blamed his predecessor, asserting that the current lax oversight of oil and drilling companies was “what Secretary Ken Salazar found when he came in.”

So while politics ideally shouldn’t play a role in this or any national catastrophe, the president once again forced the important question to the fore – when does the “blame Bush” era officially end?

From the disjointed response to the BP disaster, to the lack of a clear message explaining Obama’s reversal regarding Guantanamo Bay, to the hollow initiative to finally place 1,200 National Guardsmen on the porous Arizona border, many Americans feel the president has failed to provide a steady hand of leadership.

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Despite co-opting several Bush era domestic policies, the administration, now in its sixteenth month, still feels the need to blame the purported shortcomings of the Bush White House when any crisis arises. But as problems mount in the Gulf of Mexico, on the Mexican border, and with continued economic instability throughout the country, Americans are growing tired of the blame game.

More important, the Iranians, Russians, Chinese, North Koreans and others have taken notice of the administration’s weaknesses. Events confirm that these countries have concluded that America, specifically this administration, no longer stands up for its friends or long-held convictions.

For a president whose vision of U.S. foreign policy is based on engagement and diplomacy, the administration’s inability to rally support for meaningful sanctions against Iran is particularly glaring. Our enemies note that the administration inexplicably courts our adversaries and dismisses and mistreats our allies. Israel, of course, has been the most hurt by this approach.

The recent shift in U.S.-Israel relations was clearly intended to score points with Muslim regimes. Unsurprisingly this shift has paid zero dividends, and, actually exacerbated an already difficult situation.

In the face of intense criticism from American grass-roots supporters of Israel and mounting pressure from Congressional Democrats (who themselves were finally spurred to action by the same grass-roots supporters), Obama initiated a “charm offensive” aimed at Israel’s Jewish supporters.

But even with the recent efforts to rectify the administration’s outreach and communication effort to the larger pro-Israel community – an effort which, in the memorable words of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, was “screwed up” – the lack of a cohesive message and policy is still very much a reality.

Raising tensions even further, the Obama administration just voted at the UN-sponsored Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to permit international inspections of Israel’s nuclear program, breaking with previous administrations, Republican as well as Democrat.

New Jersey Democratic Congressman Steve Rothman can assert all he wants that Obama is the best president for Israel ever, but we should bear in mind that under unprecedented pressure from the American government there is still no natural growth permitted in Judea and Samaria, and the State Department still shows more enthusiasm for enforcing the construction freeze in Jewish Jerusalem than it does for stopping uranium enrichment in Tehran.

The Pacific Rim and the Persian Gulf are powder kegs and the Gulf Coast is facing an environmental and economic disaster, and yet the president’s iron will oddly seems not to extend past Jewish construction in Israel’s capital.

As patriotic Americans and staunch supporters of Israel, we find this difficult to understand. With turbulent times upon us once again, American Jews look to the White House and Congress for staunch support of Israel in actions, not merely words.

While we have nothing but heartfelt sympathy and concern for the tortured residents of Louisiana and the other Gulf states, we must remain steadfast in terms of our dismay with – and vigilance against – a misguided foreign policy.

Recent domestic setbacks will hopefully convince the administration to focus more on the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and other vital American interests and less on some apartments in Ramat Shlomo. As midterm elections loom, Americans will be watching closely.

About the Author: Chaskel Bennett is a writer, respected activist and member of the Board of Trustees of Agudath Israel of America. He can be contacted at chaskelbennett@gmail.com.


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