The President’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the The Atlantic makes for some incredulous reading.
There’s a lot to write about, but today, I want to pick at one specific point that not only surprised me, but clearly also surprised Jeffrey Goldberg.
I was disappointed that Goldberg, who could have actually asked a serious followup question, instead chose to give Obama a pass on such an important point, when he clearly knew Obama was wrong.
Goldberg questioned one of the many contradictions in the President’s worldview.
He pointed out Obama’s contradictory belief that while anti-Semitic regimes are not rational players, they will still respond rationally and practically to pressure and incentive.
(As an aside, whether Iran is simply driven by anti-Semitism or by a radical Islamic desire, in which anti-Semitism plays a central role, to bring about Armageddon is another important point to discuss, another time.)
When Goldberg pointed out that anti-Semitic European leaders made irrational decisions against their own survival, he was clearly thinking of Hitler as the prime example of that, as were all of us when we read Obama’s statement.
And Nazi Germany is far from the only example that contradicts Obama’s belief (just look how Hamas and the Palestinian Authority use their foreign aid money – building terror tunnels, buying weapons and paying terrorists instead of building hospitals and sewer systems).
Obama then claimed that since anti-Semitic regimes will care about their survival more than killing Jews, they will make rational decisions towards survival, despite their anti-Semitism.
More incredulously, Obama then claimed their anti-Semitism is limited to discrimination and as an organizing tool, “where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest.”
Nothing in the history, actions or decisions of Nazi Germany (and other anti-Semitic regimes) backs up that claim.
Throughout the war, Hitler diverted physical and manpower resources to killing Jews that could have been much better deployed fighting the allies.
And in particular, towards the end of the war, Hitler (and Eichmann, more specifically) chose to continue to transport Jews to the Death Camps, instead of deploying more resources to fighting the allies.
Those costs were not low, and they clearly opposed Nazi Germany’s self-interest — unless you understand that anti-Semites view killing Jews as being in their primary self-interest, even greater than their own or their regime’s survival.
I’m not expecting a rational and informed answer from the President.
But worse, it’s clear that Jeffrey Goldberg, who obviously had the same question, apparently wasn’t expecting a rational or informed answer either, and instead gave the President a pass.
Here’s that section of the interview:
Goldberg: Stay with Iran for one more moment. I just want you to help me square something. So you’ve argued, quite eloquently in fact, that the Iranian regime has at its highest levels been infected by a kind of anti-Semitic worldview. You talked about that with Tom [Friedman]. “Venomous anti-Semitism” I think is the term that you used. You have argued—not that it even needs arguing—but you’ve argued that people who subscribe to an anti-Semitic worldview, who explain the world through the prism of anti-Semitic ideology, are not rational, are not built for success, are not grounded in a reality that you and I might understand. And yet, you’ve also argued that the regime in Tehran—a regime you’ve described as anti-Semitic, among other problems that they have—is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality. So I don’t understand how these things fit together in your mind.
Obama: Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations. You know, if you look at the history of anti-Semitism, Jeff, there were a whole lot of European leaders—and there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country—
Goldberg: And they make irrational decisions—
Obama: They may make irrational decisions with respect to discrimination, with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool. At the margins, where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest. But the costs here are not low, and what we’ve been very clear [about] to the Iranian regime over the past six years is that we will continue to ratchet up the costs, not simply for their anti-Semitism, but also for whatever expansionist ambitions they may have. That’s what the sanctions represent. That’s what the military option I’ve made clear I preserve represents. And so I think it is not at all contradictory to say that there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime, but that they also are interested in maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their own country, which requires that they get themselves out of what is a deep economic rut that we’ve put them in, and on that basis they are then willing and prepared potentially to strike an agreement on their nuclear program.
Someone please send the President a history book.