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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Clinton’

And Hate the Sinner Too

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Let me surprise you for a moment. The reason that tragedies, like the outrageous terrorist bombing in Boston this week, continue to take place is not because the world lacks love but rather because it doesn’t have enough hate. Living in a Christian world that teaches us to “love the sinner,” we find excuses for evil and refuse to dedicated ourselves fully to its destruction.

North Korea is a case in point. As the young, brutal, dictator Kim Jong Un threatens the world with nuclear Armageddon, we continue to make him the butt of late-night jokes. As the world stood by and watched, North Korea launched a satellite into space in December of last year and conducted another nuclear test this past February. It has vocalized its plans to attack the United States with nuclear weapons and is building missiles to achieve that end.

Still, we refuse to hate the man, depicting him rather as a moron who watches movies with Dennis Rodman. Visiting North Korea in February, the NBA space alien called Un “a friend for life” and announced plans to “have some fun” with Un again in August, saying he “just wants to be loved.” Through all this one of the world’s deadliest dictators inspires laughter rather than loathing, engendering entertainment rather than contempt. Forget the fact that his father starved 3 million people to death in order to feed his million-man army, a policy that the young monster continues or that he terrorizes South Korea and the rest of the region. It’s an amazing thing. To be part of a regime that has slaughtered millions of people and to remain a fun curiosity to the rest of the world rather than an object of the deepest revulsion.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also regularly portrayed as, at worst, a clown and is given podiums at America’s leading universities. Iran adds to this comedy with its foreign ministry recently scolding both America and North Korea to use restraint and not promote “provocative behavior.” As foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “We think that the event that is intensifying between North Korea, South Korea and the United states should be controlled as soon as possible. Both parties should not move toward a corner in which there is a threatening climate.” Our reaction to such absurdity is to look upon the evil and lethal regime of Iran as a collection of buffoons. But make no mistake. They are deadly serious.

Sadly, the refusal to hate evil has become de regeur in world diplomacy. Speaking of the arch-murderer Hafez Al Assad at the time of his death, President Clinton said, “I have met him many times and gotten to know him very well. We had our differences, but I always respected him.” Respected the man who mowed down thousands of his own people with tanks in Hama? And was your refusal to abhor the man  perhaps responsible for why his son thinks he can get away with the same thing?

Forgetting how to hate can be just as damaging as forgetting how to love. Immersed as we are in a Christian culture that exhorts us to “turn the other cheek,” this can sound quite absurd. Yet exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in our Bible. God Himself hates every form of wickedness as harmful to mankind.  Thus the book of Proverbs declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Likewise, King David declares regarding the cruel: “I have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me.”

Hatred is a valid emotion, an appropriate response, when directed at the truly evil. Contrary to Christianity, which advocates turning the other cheek to belligerence and loving the wicked, Judaism obligates us to despise and resist evil at every turn. In my book “Kosher Jesus” I explain that Jesus said to “love your enemies,” not God’s enemies. The former are those who steal your parking space. The latter are those engaged in genocide. Likewise, when Jesus said “turn the other cheek,” he meant to petty slights and insults, not to mass murder.

When I served as Rabbi at Oxford the BBC had me discussing the tragic bombing of a gay pub that killed three people. I referred to the bomber as a wicked abomination. On the line was President Clinton’s spiritual advisor at the time, Pastor Tony Campolo, who cautioned that we had to love the bomber in the spirit of compassion and forgiveness. In England I remember so vividly as victims of IRA terrorist attacks, who lost fathers or husbands, often immediately announced their forgiveness and love for the murderers.

The Convenient Radical

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Right next to the tables where the chess players wait, chessboards laid out, clocks set up, to gull some passing businessman or arrogant NYU student out of his lunch money, the remnant of the Occupation remains.

Below the break-dancers spin and tumble enjoying the first days of spring. A bad drummer by the fountain persistently whacks away providing a dissonant soundtrack to the yuppies toting bags full of supposedly organic groceries from the stalls of the farmers’ market.

Occupy Wall Street isn’t much in the news now. It lost the battle on the southern frontier and has settled into a prolonged brawl with Trinity Church that was doomed from the start. Not too long ago, the Occupiers earned constant headlines. Now they have been reduced to a single folding table manned by a beardo with a banner featuring Martin Luther King and Obama. “I have a dream, not a drone,” it reads.

A homeless man toting a rusted shopping cart full of bottles and cans stops by to chat with him and then moves along after dropping a dime in the coffee cup.

Thanks to New York City’s recycling laws, the cans and bottles are money in the bank. The homeless man with the rusted shopping cart is working for a living while the Occupier has a coffee cup and is protesting for a living.

This is Occupy Wall Street and even though spring is in the air and the weather is warm enough for a renewal of the occupation, you don’t hear much about them anymore. And there are good reasons for that. There are bands to follow, streetcorners to squat and trends to hop on elsewhere in the country. If you’re going to protest for a living, California with its more temperate weather, is a better bet than New York City, where the warm weather is only now waving a flag while promising to show up in a month or two. But the bigger reason is that Occupy Wall Street is now surplus to requirements.

New York City radicalism is a lifetime occupation for a small fringe, but the fringe is mostly ignored. The Trotskyite fronts never stop organizing anti-war rallies and informational events, no matter who sits in the White House.  If Dennis Kucinich won in 2016 and replaced the Defense Department with the Department of Peace, on the next day the usual suspects would still assemble at Union Square, right between the chess players and the breakdancers, and demand an end to war.

Under Clinton, the anti-war business was booming on the fringe, but the news media never deigned to show up and inflate rally counts the way they did once Bush was in office. The same press releases against the War in Yugoslavia were ignored until they were dusted off and swapped out for Afghanistan and Iraq and then suddenly the media couldn’t get enough of them.

The same aging Stalinists, Maoists and Trots, the Grandmothers for Peace and the Schoolteachers for Socialism and the ragged college students clutching their copies of Noam Chomsky, suddenly became important and relevant when they marched against Bush, even though they had been marching against Clinton without a single reporter in sight, have now gone back into purgatory.

The signs are still there. Smeared and taped to lampposts they denounce American imperialism in Syria, drone strikes in Afghanistan and the usual Latin American aperitifs. There are movie showings, speakers and rallies– but no further attention is paid to them. Because they are no longer convenient.

Occupy Wall Street, which under all the coats of paint was the same thing with a different brand, is no longer convenient. It served its purpose as an election weapon. Now that the election has been won, by the class warrior glutted on Wall Street money, no one cares about the little hairy man sitting at the folding table and trying to push buttons.

The remnants of the occupation sit at their card tables, like the last Japanese soldiers on a lost island, unwilling to understand that they were nothing more than a tool that venture capitalists investing in Green Energy and medical IT and a hundred other things, not to mention the usual mortgage men, used to get what they wanted.

Occupy Wall Street was every bit as hollow as any other election stunt. It was a temporary alignment between the agenda of the left and the far-left or the far-left and the really-far-left. The details, like the slapfights between the various species of Maoist, don’t matter. What does matter is that there are, as Elaine on Seinfeld once said, successful and unsuccessful Communists. The successful kind pose for official portraits. The unsuccessful kind have to compete with breakdancers, chess players, and burly black men wearing pink “I Am a Girl” jackets collecting petition signatures for the U.N. Plan International campaign to fight gender inequality.

The convenient radical is only convenient when the left, in all its varied forms, is out of power leading to a common front. Then his toxic ideas bleed into less radical sections of his movement. Each setback radicalizes the opposition until it becomes hard to tell the men from the pigs and the liberals from the commies. And then success is achieved, some section of the coalition is carried forward into power and their unlucky cousins are left behind at their folding tables.

That is how the Democrats turned so far to the left and adopted most of the talking points of the anti-war movement. But then once in office, they still found that they had wars to run. It’s all very well to say that Martin Luther King had a dream not a drone, but it’s hard to fight terrorists with dreams. Even when your anti-war credentials are impeccable, you sometimes come to the conclusion that it takes a drone.

These days the anti-war movement is making more headway with some Republicans than Democrats; which shows how desperate they have become. And Anti-Wall Street? The Democratic Party is Wall Street. Take away the V.C.s, the trial lawyers and the entertainment industry, and you have eliminated the non-contractor funding for the party of the jackass.

Occupy Wall Street, like Obama pretending to scold Wall Street’s bonuses, was a joke. A joke that its supporters and his supporters never understood. The punchline is power. Those who have it and those who don’t.

The radical is a convenience. In a common front, he provides ideas and energy. If he cleans up well and comes up with some moneymaking ideas and a seat at a non-profit foundation, then he can get an invite to the White House even if he has blood on his hands. But for every radical who finds a spot on the board of the family foundation of some deceased Republican millionaire, there are a dozen who never get a clue or come to understand the nature of their profession.

When the alignment has passed, then the convenient radical either becomes a successful leftist or he gets a job peddling Fifty Shades of Grey at the nearby Strand bookstore, once a radical haunt, now made over into another Barnes and Noble, under the guiding hand of the wife of Senator Ron Wyden; a most successful leftist indeed.

Like every other profession, some radicals move up the ladder and others remain toting around books full of Marxist theory among the skyscrapers of the Capitalist reality. The passion and energy is a bank that the left withdraws from when politically convenient and ignores when politically inconvenient.

The energy and appetites of the beast still lurk in every city where the theoreticians spin their webs, the propagandists inflame and the perpetual students gesture animatedly. As progressives they believe that inevitably every terrible idea that they have will go mainstream and the last sixty years have largely borne them out in this. But the filtering mechanism is the issue.

In the era of Obama, the filter is weaker than ever. The pattern echoes the ongoing one of every prior administration which, even in its conservative periods, has been more willing to let in bad ideas than the left. But the floodgates are not entirely open either because the one great difference between the successful leftist and the unsuccessful radical is the old maxim about why treason never prospers.

The leftist and the radical, successful and unsuccessful, are both tyrants at heart. But the leftist understands that tyranny is a vehicle for personal power and prosperity. The radical does not.

The difference between the leftist and the radical is that the radical sits outside to promote the cause, while the leftist profits from his shivering. The radical can, and often does, become the successful leftist, but to do so he must learn the basic lesson that the endgame is wealth and power. That wealth and power can come from wrecking a nation, but the wrecking ball can’t come too close to the homes of the Marxist millionaires picking up the tab.

The convenient radical understands this. Like Noam Chomsky or Oliver Stone, Howard Zinn, Bill Ayers or Michael Moore he has the timing and the instincts to get the right exposure at the right time and then profit from it. His ideas are radical, but his instincts are impeccable. He knows the right people and the right buttons to push. But most of all, he doesn’t collect donations in a coffee cup. While he writes furious essays denouncing capitalism or screams at Wall Street through a megaphone, he has a broker and an investment plan that will ride out the tough times.

Though the convenient radical may despise those on the left to the right of him, he understands how to cater to them and how to embed his ideas in theirs. The inconvenient radical is a man of poor instincts. He is the sort of man who is still sitting under that statue of George Washington lifting his sword to mark the departure of British troops from New York City watching the breakdancers spin and the shoppers move dazedly in the organic triangle between Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and the Farmers’ Market without realizing that the occupation is over and it’s time to move on.

Wall Street has won because it is simply capital and the liberals and the leftists have their capital that they need investing. Money always wins, in one form or another. Societies may collapse into dysfunction, but there will still be someone there selling them coffee and croissants at the end. And someone advancing him money and investing in coffee cup manufacturers and looking at commodity prices and calculating supply and demand. They may not do it well, but they will do it. There may just not be a middle class to do it with.

The convenient radical understands that Wall Street reflects his priorities. If he wants to push billions in bad loans to minority homeowners or invest in Green Energy, then it will be on board. Money will be lost, but it will be someone else’s money. The inconvenient radical does not understand this. He thinks that there will one day be an actual victory. The banks will fall and be replaced by communes where food will be awarded based on the results of quizzes about the life and ideas of Michel Foucault .That is what makes him hopelessly stupid, occasionally convenient, but largely useless.

The inconvenient radical does not understand that the commune is not an option. There will either be a society with a large middle class dominated by the middle class or a society of the poor dominated by the upper class.

The convenient radical understands this and seeks the society in which a large underclass is dominated by a narrow elite. This is the society that he tirelessly inveighs against and wants to create. This outcome is what makes the left into the totalitarian entity that it is. The knowing hypocrisy is what distinguishes the successful leftist, from the inconvenient radical.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

The Secret Document that Set Obama’s Mideast Policy

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“We have to confront violent extremism in all of its forms.… America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.” –President Barack Obama, Cairo, June 2009.

“The United States is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise….Resistance is the only solution. [Today the United States] is withdrawing from Iraq, defeated and wounded, and it is also on the verge of withdrawing from Afghanistan. [All] its warplanes, missiles and modern military technology were defeated by the will of the peoples, as long as [these peoples] insisted on resistance.” –Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad al-Badi, Cairo, September 2010.

WHAT DID THE PRESIDENT know and when did he know it? That’s a question made classical by the Watergate scandal. Now it is possible to trace precisely what Obama knew and when he knew it. And it proves that the installment of the Muslim Brotherhood into power was a conscious and deliberate strategy of the Obama Administration developed before the “Arab Spring” began.

In February 2011 the New York Times ran an extremely complimentary article on President Obama by Mark Landler, who some observers say is the biggest apologist for Obama on the newspaper. That’s quite an achievement. Landler praised Obama for having tremendous foresight, in effect, predicting the “Arab Spring.”

According to Landler,

President Obama ordered his advisers last August [2010] to produce a secret report on unrest in the Arab world, which concluded that without sweeping political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen were ripe for popular revolt, administration officials said Wednesday.

Which advisors? The then counter-terrorism advisor and now designated CIA chief, John Brennan? National Security Council senior staffer Samantha Power? If it was done by Obama’s own staff, rather than State and Defense staff, it’s likely that these people or at least one of them was the key author.

So should U.S. policy help allies avoid such sweeping change by standing firm or by helping them make adjustments? No, explained the report, it should get on the side of history and wield a broom to do the sweeping.

Lander’s article continued:

Mr. Obama’s order, known as a Presidential Study Directive, identified likely flashpoints, most notably Egypt, and solicited proposals for how the administration could push for political change in countries with autocratic rulers who are also valuable allies of the United States, [emphasis added] these officials said.

The 18-page classified report, they said, grapples with a problem that has bedeviled the White House’s approach toward Egypt and other countries in recent days: how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.

As I noted, the article was quite explicitly complimentary (and that’s an understatement) about how Obama knew what was likely to happen and was well prepared for it.

But that’s precisely the problem. It wasn’t trying to deal with change but was pushing for it; it wasn’t asserting U.S. interests, but balancing them off against other factors. In the process, U.S. interests were forgotten.

If Landler was right then Obama did have a sense of what was going to happen and prepared for it. It cannot be said that he was caught unawares. This view would suggest, then, that he thought American strategic interests could be protected and broader instability avoided by overthrowing U.S. allies as fast as possible and by showing the oppositions that he was on their side. Presumably the paper pointed out the strength of Islamist forces and the Muslim Brotherhood factor and then discounted any dangers from this quarter.

One could have imagined how other U.S. governments would have dealt with this situation: by helping friendly governments retain control, encourage them to make reforms, and if they fall, work  to ensure the triumph of moderate, pro-democratic forces that would be able to prevent the formation of radical Islamist dictatorships.

Such an approach would have been easy and in line with historic U.S. policy. We have every reason to believe that the State Department and the Defense Department favored such an approach.

‘An Act of Stupidity That Will Resonate for Generations’

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The replacement of dictator Hosni Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi has had serious negative consequences for Egyptian liberals, Christians, and women; for Israel, which now must treat Egypt as a hostile power rather than a peace partner; and for the U.S., which is in the uncomfortable position of financially supporting a radical Islamist, anti-American, antisemitic regime.

So did this have to happen? Some say yes, there was no way the 82-year old corrupt, brutal Mubarak could have been propped up (but note that the new regime is no less, possibly more, brutal and corrupt). And shouldn’t the Egyptian people be allowed to choose their own rulers?

If you listen to Rafi Eitan, a former Mossad official who led the capture of Adolf Eichmann in 1960, the answer is that it definitely did not have to happen — and the U.S. is responsible. An interview with Eitan appeared today in the Times of Israel:

This slight man, with his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, did not mince his words when speaking of what he perceives as fatal American mistakes in handling the “Arab Spring” — particularly at that crucial moment in June 2012 when the administration could have imposed a secular president on Egypt, Ahmad Shafiq — and by doing so change the course of that country’s history. …

“The military unequivocally decided that [Ahmed] Shafiq will be president, not [Mohammed] Morsi,” Eitan told The Times of Israel. “But the Americans put all the pressure on. The announcement [of the president] was delayed by three or four days because of this struggle.”

Immediately after Egypt’s presidential elections in June 2012, Eitan spoke to unnamed local officials, who told him that with a mere 5,000-vote advantage for Islamist candidate Morsi, the military was prepared to announce the victory of his adversary Shafiq, a secular military man closely associated with the Mubarak regime.

But secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Eitan said, decided to favor democracy at all costs and disallow any falsification of the vote.

“This is idiocy. An act of stupidity that will resonate for generations,” Eitan said. “I also thought Mubarak should be replaced, but I believed the Americans would be smart enough to replace him with the next figure. Mubarak would have agreed to that, but the Americans didn’t want that; they wanted democracy. But there is no real democracy in the Arab world at the moment. It will take a few generations to develop…”

If you believe that the ideology of radical Islamism represents a real challenge to the Enlightenment values of Western civilization,  then the takeover of the largest and most important Arab nation by the Brotherhood is a significant defeat for America and the West. Although historical analogies are notoriously misleading, in a sense it is as if the U.S. had intervened on behalf of the Bolsheviks in 1917 or helped Hitler attain power in 1933.

The appeal to ‘democracy’ is particularly ludicrous. Although Morsi uses the word a lot, his actions in consolidating power in the hands of the Brotherhood have been anything but democratic. And the philosophy of the Brotherhood itself makes it clear that regardless of the means by which power is attained, the goal is a state — and ultimately an expansive caliphate — governed according to shari’a, ruled by religious authorities, a regime in which Muslims (male) will dominate all others.

It seems that the Obama Administration has made a distinction between Islamists, with al-Qaeda and Hezbollah in the category of ‘bad’ Islamists because they have directly attacked us, while the Brotherhood and (for example) the Turkish AKP are ‘good’ because they have made the tactical decision not to wage war on us (at least not yet). But their ideology is no less anti-Western and anti-American.

If Eitan’s analysis — that the U.S. chose to support Morsi because it would be “more democratic” — is true, it reveals a shocking ignorance on the part of our leaders about the nature of the Brotherhood, of Egypt, and yes, the real meaning of “democracy.”

The Truth About Benghazi Makes a Difference (Video)

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived back in the Senate, after dodging a few falling safes, multiple banana peels and an ornery dog named Henry, to give a carefully prepared histrionic rant which can be summed up, “I do care a lot” and “None of this was my fault” and “What difference at this point does it make?”

The last isn’t a sarcastic restatement. It’s what she actually said.

It might make a difference to a certain Coptic Christian whose trailer was blamed by the leader of the free world for a series of Al Qaeda attacks against American diplomatic facilities and who was sent to prison on the orders of members of the administration.

That fellow of many names, now serving a year in prison, is the only one to actually get locked up. The ringleader of the attack walks the streets of Benghazi freely. A drone could make short work of him, but no drones are coming his way. Instead a car bomb, planted by Libyan enemies nearly took him out. Some of the other Benghazi attackers were killed by the Algerian military during the siege; doing the work that Obama won’t do. If the Benghazi terrorists finally die, it will most likely be at the hands of the French, the Syrian army or Libyan rival militias.

Benghazi, Obama said, during his appearance with Jon Stewart, the man of many grimaces, was a bump in the road. And that’s all it was. The Obama campaign bus drove over four bodies and reached its destination in an armored parking garage somewhere in D.C. An irritated Hillary Clinton, who is prepping for her own bus tour in 2016, has every reason to demand to know what difference it makes now to discuss who lied about what and who failed to secure the Benghazi mission.

The election is over, and her testimony was delayed until after the fat lady held up her talking points at the debate and sang. Al Qaeda is dead, except for the parts of it rampaging across Syria, Iraq, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Pakistan, and a decade of war is coming to an end or just beginning. It makes no difference now which one of those it really is, just as it makes no difference, whether, as Clinton said, it happened “because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans?”

Dead is dead. The Benghazi four are dead. Stability in the Middle East is dead. Hope is dead. Victory is dead. It’s time to discuss the serious stuff. Like finding the right title for Hillary’s next biography, ghost-written and set for release around 2015, right after the Dems suffer a Congressional setback from angry NRA voters and just before the next election to position her as the new voice of hope.

“Bumps in the road” is one option. It really communicates that Hillary has been through a lot and driven over a lot of hard roads full of potholes and people who were only there because the Republicans refused to fully fund her infrastructure and outreach programs. But “What Difference Does It Make?” best captures the zeitgeist of the time. That sense that nothing matters once you’ve won.

What Difference Does It Make?: Hillary Clinton in Peace and War” will show up on shelves with a cover of her in some distant country looking out at the exotic landscape or surrounded by properly foreign children. It will be packaged along with a public speaking tour of colleges as Hillary promises to teach the leaders of tomorrow how they too can make a difference her way. The tour will use up Hillary’s store of funny and inspiring stories from her meetings with foreign leaders and human rights activists, most of which will be made up, but what difference does it make?

Everyone will pretend to be inspired by her. Suddenly it will be of paramount importance (circa 2015) that young women have a president of their own to look up to. It’ll all be fake, like her career, but what difference does that make. The real campaign slogan, at this point, might as well be, “Hillary, why not?” and “You know it’s going to happen anyway.”

Clinton: Significant Reductions of Iranian Crude Oil Purchases

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton released the following press statement:

The United States and the international community remain committed to maintaining pressure on the Iranian regime until it fully addresses concerns about its nuclear program. That’s why today I am pleased to announce that China, India, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Taiwan have again qualified for an exception to sanctions outlined in Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, based on additional reductions in the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran. As a result, I will report to the Congress that exceptions to sanctions pursuant to Section 1245 of the NDAA for certain transactions will apply to the financial institutions based in these countries for a potentially renewable period of 180 days.

A total of 20 countries and economies have continued to significantly reduce the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran. According to the latest U.S. Energy Information Administration report to Congress, Iran’s oil production fell by one million barrels per day in September and October 2012, compared to the same period in 2011. This has reduced Iran’s export volumes and oil revenues, which fund not only the nuclear program but its support for terror and destabilizing actions in the region. The message to the Iranian regime from the international community is clear: take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community through negotiations with the P5+1, or face increasing isolation and pressure.

Driving in Neutral: Hillary Clinton Explains the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s said some very interesting and revealing things in her appearance at the Saban Center’s gala dinner, November 30. They are, however, being quoted out of context. Let’s look at what she actually said in some detail for a sense of how the Obama Administration’s highest-ranking foreign policy official and a future presidential candidate thinks about this issue.

Let me note also that the statement was made at an institution that might be considered friendly to Israel and thus Clinton might have skewed her remarks to be more fair to that country than she would in a regular international forum.

In answering a question, Clinton went into some detail about the problems facing a two-state solution and peace. Remember she is speaking extemporaneously.

First, the Israeli perception:

“I think Israelis have good grounds to be suspicious. And I would never be one who tries to rewrite or dismiss history. The Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am if they had made the right decision in 1947. They could have had a state if they had worked with my husband and then-Prime Minister Barak at Camp David. They could have had a state if they’d worked with Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni.”

Here Clinton is pointing out that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected getting a state, that’s why they didn’t have one years ago. I cannot imagine Obama saying this kind of thing.

“Now, would it have been a perfectly acceptable outcome for every Israeli and every Palestinian? No. No compromise ever is. But there were moments of opportunity. And I will also say this. When Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze I flew to Jerusalem. We’d been working on this. George Mitchell had been taking the lead on it. And when Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 10-month settlement freeze, it wasn’t perfect. It didn’t cover East Jerusalem, but it covered much of the contested area in the West Bank.”

There’s something important in this passage that no one has noticed. For the first time ever, Clinton publicly and explicitly acknowledged that the freeze did not cover East Jerusalem. Why, then, did Vice-President Joe Biden throw a temper tantrum when an Israeli zoning board cleared some future construction there? At the time, the U.S. government repeatedly implied that Israel violated the agreement, which it didn’t. Now Clinton admits that.

Incidentally, the Obama Administration did nothing when the Palestinian Authority refused to negotiate seriously despite the freeze on construction.

Clinton continued, and this is also revealing:

“And I stood on a stage with him at 11 o’clock – Israelis always meet late at night, I don’t understand it – (laughter) – but 11 o’clock at night, midnight, and I said it was unprecedented for any Israeli prime minister to have done that. I got so criticized. I got criticized from the right, the left, the center, Israeli, Jewish, Arab, Christian, you name it. Everybody criticized me. But the fact was it was a 10-month settlement freeze. And he was good to his word. And we couldn’t get the Palestinians into the conversation until the tenth month.”

I cannot remember anyone criticizing her for this statement. It was small enough reward to Netanyahu for a major domestic political risk and a concession which in the end brought no progress for peace and no gratitude from the White House. But what Clinton says now does reflect the Western view that if you bash Israel it has no cost and if you praise Israel it is going to hurt you. I wonder if this is also a hint that Obama wasn’t happy with her praise for Netanyahu.

Thus ran her praise for Israel’s efforts. So then, in the spirit of evenhandedness embraced by recent presidents in place of a former pro-Israel policy, she has to balance out this statement. When a Democratic politician has to be hyper-sensitive about saying something nice about Israel it tells you how much things have shifted in that party and in the “liberal” context:

“I’m not making excuses for the missed opportunities of the Israelis, or the lack of generosity, the lack of empathy that I think goes hand-in-hand with the suspicion. So, yes, there is more that the Israelis need to do to really demonstrate that they do understand the pain of an oppressed people in their minds, and they want to figure out, within the bounds of security and a Jewish democratic state, what can be accomplished.”

She makes four points:

Israelis have missed opportunities. Really, like what? If she’s aware of real ones Clinton can provide examples but while it is easy to list two dozen Palestinian missed opportunities—i.e., Israel was ready for real peace and they weren’t—the effort to provide some opposite example always turns out to be illusory.

Lack of generosity: This is shameful. First of all, since when is generosity an international diplomatic norm? Against what other country or people would she dare make such a statement? On further consideration, if generosity means being nice or making unilateral concessions to enemies that wish to destroy you, then the Obama Administration is very generous.

But in fact Israel has been generous. It has freed large numbers of Palestinian prisoners to get back kidnapped Israelis; it let around 200,000 Palestinians come to the territories after 1993; it has used much less force than it might have; it has largely ignored continuous incitement against itself and not responded in kind. The list is a long one.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, not exactly a left-winger, even fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip and dismantled Jewish settlements in large part to give the Palestinians a chance to develop that area, see that Israel did not want the territories and sought to provide an opportunity to build a basis for peace.
Who in the world has been generous toward Israel?

Lack of empathy: This is really low on Clinton’s part. In schools, Israeli kids learn about Palestinian grievances. Israel television showed a multi-part history documentary that showed the Palestinian viewpoint. In Israeli newspapers, and every other medium Palestinians are interviewed and an honest attempt is made to portray their standpoint, sometimes indeed with more sympathy than is showed to Israel’s government.

Every Israeli leader, except those on the right-wing fringe, is perfectly aware of the Palestinian case and complaints. To cite only one example, Ehud Barak once said that if had been a Palestinians he would have been a fighter in Fatah. No country in modern history has shown more empathy to its enemies.
Can anyone cite a single example—a speech, an article—on the Palestinian side that has shown any shred of empathy?

Finally, “oppressed people” and this is the most important point. If the Palestinians are an oppressed people who is oppressing them? Here we see how the Obama Administration has, at best, accepted the European version of the anti-Israel narrative. If the Palestinians keep turning down peace offers how is Israel responsible for their “oppression”?

If they are oppressed it is by their own leaders. Who oppresses the population of the Gaza Strip.

And once you have “the pain of an oppressed people” it is a short step toward believing that terrorism and intransigence is just an expression of that pain, rather than the cause of it.

Clinton concluded:

“And I think that, unfortunately, there are more and more Israelis and Palestinians who just reject that idea out of hand: Why bother? Why try? We’ll never be able to reach an agreement with the other. But in the last 20 years, I’ve seen Israeli leaders make an honest, good-faith effort and not be reciprocated in the way that was needed.”

But here, too, there is a disproportionate idea. Relatively few Israelis reject a two-state solution out of hand. The dominant idea today is: We want a two-state solution but the other side doesn’t. On the Palestinian side, virtually none of the leadership is prepared to implement an achievable two-state solution. Indeed, they increasingly talk of a one-state solution (total victory and Israel’s destruction), an approach that is never heard among Israeli leaders.

What is objectionable is not that she criticizes Israel—she could cite various things like insufficient energy in dismantling outposts or being too permissive toward settlements—but the criticisms she makes. They all fall into the current dominant Western view that the world’s problems are caused by greedy, aggressive, unempathetic white people who oppress everyone else. Implied here is that the only solution is that such people take risks, make unilateral concessions, pay money, and continually apologize for their sins.
And that’s a formula for disaster, not only in U.S. policy toward Israel but everywhere else.

I say all this not to complain about unfair double standards or even to respond to Clinton. That is a waste of time. What’s important here is to show how her mind works and that of a large portion of the Western elite. Her remarks are not as bad as they sound when taken out of context. She does try to be balanced—though an attempt at equidistance is not exactly showing strong support for Israel—and also does—unlike Obama—criticize the Palestinians. Yet in policy terms at the very moment of culmination for a Palestinian Authority three-year effort to wreck any peace process by unilateral independence and when Hamas has decided the moment has come for a jihad backed up by the Islamist tidal wave in the region, Clinton and the Obama Administration are obsessed with Israel not making even more concessions.

“I think Israelis have good grounds to be suspicious,” Clinton said. But what she didn’t explain are all the good grounds for Israelis to be suspicious of the Obama Administration.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The End Of The American Presidency

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

The American presidency came to an end on October 15, 1992 during a Town Hall debate between President George H.W, Bush, Ross Perot and Bill Clinton. The stage seemed more like a place for Phil Donahue to strut around, biting his lips and dragging out tawdry tales for audience applause than for three presidential candidates to discuss the future of the country.

The audience had more in common with the ones that usually showed up to cheer or boo Phil’s guests, and the high point of the evening and the end of the presidency came when one of those guests rose and, with the distinctive, painstakingly slurred pronunciation of the semi-literate, demanded that the candidates tell her how the “national debt” had affected them personally.

Bush stumblingly tried to turn her stupidity into some kind of policy question, but the World War II veteran was completely out of his depth in the Donahue talk-show format. The moderator, however, demanded that he answer how it had affected him personally. Forget the country or the consequences; feelings mattered more than policy.

It was a Phil Donahue moment and the Donahue candidate stepped into the spotlight.

Bill Clinton understood the audience member did not have a clue about what the national debt was. But he also knew it didn’t matter. This wasn’t about the facts, this was an “I Feel” moment. The questioner did not want to know how a problem would be solved, only that the people on top “cared” about her, and Clinton did what he did best – he told her he really cared.

George W. Bush made sure he would never repeat his father’s mistake. He ran as the “compassionate conservative” and a “uniter, not a divider.” He ran as the man who could never be caught flat-footed by an “I Feel” question. Bush II always felt things and insisted on sharing them with us.

The American presidency had exited the age of policy and entered the age of empathy. Competency no longer mattered. The man in the gray flannel suit who understood the issues had no place on the stage. To get there he would have to get in touch with his inner child and talk about it. He would have to spill his feelings so that people really believed he cared.

Without October 15, 1992, there would have been no Clinton. And without Clinton there would have been no Obama. The Democrats had nominated questionable men before, but they came with the patina of experience and credibility. Even the sleaziest and least experienced Democratic president, JFK, had spent decades polishing his resume and countering his weak points in a calculated plan to get to the top. But the sleazy Clinton grinned his way through primaries no one took seriously because the Democrats didn’t believe Bush could be beaten in ’92 and then felt his way through a national election. It was a small step for one man but a giant step for tricksters everywhere with charisma and no ethics.

The current qualifications for an office holder include the ability to chat on “The View,” read Top Ten lists for David Letterman and make fun of yourself on “Saturday Night Live.” Most of all it’s the ability to emote in public.

Bush I was unable to cross the “I” bridge. Obama lives under the “I” bridge. Even more than Clinton, he is the “I” candidate. Conservatives assail him for egotism, but it’s the lightning in the bottle of modern politics. Only the truly self-centered can fully emote to the back rows. It’s a skill common to egocentrics who feel their own pain so loudly they can make it seem like your pain.

Bill Clinton did not feel the pain of his Town Hall questioner or anyone else’s. He made us feel his pain, but mostly he made us feel his undiluted joy at running things and being the center of attention. That was why so many people loved him and still love him.

Clinton made it inevitable that the perfect “I” president would appear to live his life in public, offering constant coverage of his life, his tastes, his family, his pets and his thoughts on every subject. He would not be a private man, he would be a public spectacle. He would be able to talk about himself, not only at debates, but all the time. He would always be an “I” and the Phil Donahue audience would live through him, feel his pain, share his joys and cheer him on in the great collective noise of a celebrity and the fans who live for and through him.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-end-of-the-american-presidency-2/2012/10/24/

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