Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
Hurricane Katrina. Hostage crisis. Tet Offensive.
Is Barack Obama’s presidency at a similar tipping point?
The relevance of the question exemplifies the gravity of Obama’s crisis. Obama is learning the lesson of presidents before him.
‘Poor Ike,” Harry Truman said of the incoming president, “it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll sit here and he’ll say, ‘Do this, do that,’ and nothing will happen.’
Presidents are hostage to events, goes the old political axiom. But that’s a half-truth. Presidencies rise and fall far more by their response to great events than to the event itself.
“Presidents are ultimately judged by how they handle the unexpected,” presidential historian Richard Norton Smith wrote in an e-mail exchange. “JFK may have blown the Bay of Pigs but more than recovered a year later in Cuba…. Just as he moved away from his cautious approach to civil rights as newspaper pictures and TV reports from Birmingham – the equivalent of today’s unstopped pipe at the bottom of the Gulf – made him realize that the presidency is, indeed, ultimately a place of moral leadership.”
This issue comes down to presidential leadership. The British Petroleum crisis clearly placed Obama’s presidency in crisis several weeks back Yet the status quo endured. The media pile-on ensued. Impressions solidified. This is what happens when the president does not meet the moment.
History tells us how it happens. Perceptions contrast with promises. The measure of the president appears smaller than the problems before him. Presidencies, subtly and at similar junctures, turn south for a long winter.
“The good presidents are able to basically survive these kinds of events, rarely are they able control of them. They find strong political and strategic responses,” said Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer. “The bad presidents make the crisis seem greater than the presidency.”
This turning point is often gradual – not made by one event – and, like all crossroads, clearest in the rear view mirror. But when the perception goes from good to bad on great events, the entire presidency goes bad.
Obama’s leadership problem did not begin with BP. There was the coolness to Wall Street malfeasance. The sure victory of financial reform sidelined. The new New Deal that never was. The healthcare bill that came instead and in time took hold of his presidency. The president seemingly aligned with all the big boogiemen of the day – big business and big government.
The change agent personified the establishment. The post-partisan went to the mat for a hyper-partisan issue. The candidate who won his majority with the recession focused his mandate elsewhere. The man who promised new politics partook in the ugly old politics, from healthcare’s Cornhusker kickback to the Joe Sestak incident. And now, the competent candidate haunted by perceptions of incompetent presidential leadership.
Somewhere, along the way, was Obama’s Bert Lance affair. Jimmy Carter’s budget director was legally exonerated from a financial scandal. But the issue was ethics. Critical weeks passed. In Watergate’s shadow, the candidate who ran on good ethics was now a president tainted by bad ethics.
The hostage crisis cemented what began with Lance. But it’s also how the hostage crisis bled on, like George H.W. Bush’s recession and like too many of Obama’s crises. Healthcare bleeds for a year. The jobs crisis still bleeds. Now this oil crisis, bleeding past day 60.
And like the Lance affair, critical weeks have indeed passed. Political triage might be too late. The time with the victims too little. The president’s emotive distance from the tragedy too great. The aloofness too constant. The expressions of anger and empathy too contrived. The crisis too far along.
FDR most famously took command of like times. His response to the crisis won the public – and historic gains in the midterm elections – despite the Great Depression languishing on. It was not the solution but the response. In Roosevelt, as Zelizer put it, “Americans saw someone from the White House doing as much as anyone could see possible. That’s in contrast to the current administration on the oil spill and, many would say, on jobs.”
Obama is flailing. The feckless image haunts him. Meanwhile, from the Korean peninsula to Iran to fragile world markets, myriad potential crises loom.
About the Author: David Paul Kuhn is chief political correspondent for RealClearPolitics and author of "The Neglected Voter." This column first appeared at RealClearPolitics.com.
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France 2 and Enderlin must have their press accreditation revoked and be thrown out of Israel.
Slaughter is a routine, widespread practice among many Moslem families.
parently an affront to J Street’s worldview, the focus of which appears to be the creation of a Palestinian State, whether or not that will bring peace.
My mother, the eldest daughter of Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, was niftar last month at the age of 92. She took her last breath in her home in Efrat, Israel, next door to the shul that was my father’s for 24 years before his passing in 2007.
It comes down to his being famous.
Following the Boston Marathon bombing, one crucial point will likely remain overlooked. The most loathsome aspect of this or any other terror bombing attack on civilians will always lie in the inexpressibility of physical pain. While all decent people will abhor the idea of bombs expressly directed at the innocent, whether here or in other countries, none will ever be able to process the very deepest horrors of what has been inflicted.
It’s only natural to see increasing evidence of Jerusalem’s glorious Jewish past being unearthed, quite literally, under modern Israeli sovereignty. The new archaeological finds are also very timely – as the Arab onslaught attempting to detach Jerusalem from its Jewish roots gains steam, the facts on the ground, or “under” the ground, show quite otherwise.
The Talmud (Berachot 26b) says, “tefillot avot tiknum” – “prayer was established by the avot.” The Talmud then uses the following verse (Bereshit 19:27) to prove how Avraham established prayer: “Vayaskem Avraham baboker el hamakom asher amad sham et pnei Hashem” – “And Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before God.”
Nearly 13 years ago, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak journeyed to Camp David to end the conflict with the Palestinians. With the approval of President Clinton, he offered Yasir Arafat an independent Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and in part of Jerusalem. Arafat said no.
The news that the Internal Revenue Service unfairly targeted conservative groups has brought renewed spotlight on a 2010 lawsuit filed by the pro-Israel group Z Street, which alleges it was also singled out by the IRS when applying for tax-exempt status.
In an editorial last week (“Circling the Wagons”) we noted the efforts by the administration and its supporters to dismiss allegations that the government’s spin on the Benghazi attack was designed to shield the president and that the IRS was improperly used to stifle opposition to Mr. Obama’s reelection.
As the controversies besetting the Obama administration continue to grow in number and intensity, the prospect that President Obama would seriously consider military action against Iran, should that country continue its drive to become a nuclear power, becomes more and more remote. So we welcome the current enhancement of sanctions against Iran on the federal and New York State levels.
To his parents’ friends, he was “Mrs. Greenberg’s disgrace,” but to sports fans he is one of the greatest – if not the greatest – Jewish baseball players of all time. Long before Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg excited Jewish sports fans with his prowess on the baseball diamond.
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