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December 2, 2016 / 2 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Oval Office’

Trump Appoints Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn as Natl Security Adviser

Friday, November 18th, 2016

Interviews, meetings and consultations are continuing back-to-back at Trump Tower in New York City as the Trump transition team moves to fill thousands of positions by January 20, 2017, when President-elect Donald J. Trump when move into the Oval Office in Washington DC.

On Thursday, Lt.-Gen. Michael Flynn was offered the post of National Security Adviser by the president-elect, Fox News confirmed, noting the appointment came amid meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and numerous others.

Although there was speculation that Flynn was under consideration for the position of Defense Secretary, Fox News pointed out that the position of National Security Adviser, a pivotal post, does not require Senate confirmation, allowing Flynn to get down to work immediately.

Flynn, 57, served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014; he left that position, having been terminated after a disagreement with Obama administration officials.

The National Security Adviser coordinates all the security agencies.

Flynn, a three-star general (retired), spoke in favor of Trump at the Republican National Convention in July, and like Trump has said in a recently published book that the United States is losing a “world war” against radical Islam due to “political correctness.”

Flynn also considers Iran to be a real, exceptional threat to the State of Israel, that regional threats to Israel are generated by Iran, and has told a Congressional committee in the past that he believes the United States should take steps to deal with those threats.

Hana Levi Julian

Obama Says Trump is ‘Pragmatic, Not Ideological,’ Will Learn On The Job

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

U.S. President Barack Obama made an extra effort Monday (Nov. 14) to build a positive image of a seamless transition to the new president-elect, using a White House briefing to list the accomplishments of “his team” while taking a philosophical stance about the incoming administration.

The president held a wide-ranging news conference, allowing plenty of time to answer questions from the White House press corps about his still-evolving reactions to the election of President-elect Donald Trump. The briefing came just hours before he boarded the plane for his final trip overseas as president.

The six-day journey will include meetings in Greece, Germany and Peru with European leaders, China’s president and Australia’s prime minister.

At every stop, Obama will also need to talk about his successor, and to try to reverse some of the damage done from prior remarks abroad in which he underlined how completely unprepared Trump is to lead America.

Obama began that process at home in the White House before boarding Air Force One, with many positive remarks about his recent meeting with the president-elect.

“I don’t think he is ideological, I think ultimately he is pragmatic,” Obama told reporters, “… and that can serve him well, as long as he has got good people around him, and he has a good sense of direction.”

He also said that he believes Trump is entering office with “fewer set hard and fast policy prescriptions than a lot of other presidents might be arriving with. Do I have concerns? Absolutely, of course I’ve got concerns. He and I differ on a whole bunch of issues,” he said.

However, Obama repeatedly ducked questions from numerous reporters who tried to pin him down on whether or not he still believes Trump is “unfit” to be president, as Obama had said during the campaign.

He also refused to comment on any of Trump’s appointments, saying, “I think it is important for us to let him make his decisions.

“This office has a way of waking you up,” he added with the ghost of an ironic chuckle. “Those aspects of his positions or his predispositions that don’t match up with reality, he will find shaken up pretty quick, because reality has a way of asserting itself,” he said.

Hana Levi Julian

Obama, Merkel Won’t ‘Allow Borders of Europe To Be Redrawn by Barrel of a Gun’

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed Monday they would stand together in the battle to restrain Russia from swallowing European territory again.

Speaking with reporters following a meeting Monday at the Oval Office, Obama said he was “very encouraged about the extent to which we’ve been able to maintain U.S.-European unity on this issue.

“We are in absolute agreement that the 21st century cannot have us stand idle and allow the borders of Europe to be redrawn by the barrel of a gun,” Obama said.

But the president added there were “tactical disagreements” on how to proceed, should diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the crisis between pro-Russia separatists and Ukraine.

With the suggestion that military aid to Ukraine could be considered, “The possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined,” Obama said.

No decision has yet been made about that choice, however, which Merkel opposes.

“I’ve always said I don’t see a military solution in this conflict but we have to put all our efforts behind a diplomatic solution,” she said, speaking in German. “But if, at a certain point in time one has to say that a success is not possible, even if one puts every effort into it, then the United States and Europe have to sit together and try and explore further possibilities, what one can do.”

Talks in Munich and Kiev proved fruitless last week. A new attempt will be made this Wednesday in Minsk.

Hana Levi Julian

Netanyahu, Obama, Address Middle East Threats

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Just days after U.S. President Barack Obama became telephone buddies with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Israel’s Prime Minister urged Obama not to let up on the international sanctions imposed on Iran because even for diplomacy to work, “those pressures must be kept in place.”

The two heads of country met in the Oval Office on Monday, September 30, and discussed several matters including the ongoing discussions between Israeli and Arab Palestinian negotiators, and the crises in Syria and Egypt.

One of the primary topics of mutual concern was whether there has been a sea change in Iran’s dealing with the West – and more importantly, its nuclear weapons program – or if Rouhani is merely better at public diplomacy than was his predecessor.

There was a brief press conference following the meeting.

President Obama spoke first.  He started by mentioning the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Arab Palestinians, and then turned his attention to the other threats in the Middle East.

The U.S. president stated that he was “clear-eyed” going into the new rounds of negotiations with the Iranians, and he also confirmed that “we take no options off the table, including military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have a — nuclear weapons in Iran that would destabilize the region and potentially threaten the United States of America.”

When it was the Israeli leader’s turn to speak, Netanyahu immediately pointed out, first, that the U.S. has “no better ally, more reliable, more stable, more democratic other than Israel in a very broad, dangerous place,” and second, that “the most important challenge is preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu spent the bulk of his remarks focused on Iran.

“Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction,” is the way Netanyahu described the situation. In the simplest possible language, and in the present tense, the Israeli prime minister made clear he does not believe a change in the Iranian presidency has altered Iran’s position towards Israel, regardless of the happy holiday message Rouhini sent to the Jewish people and in spite of the condemnation of Nazi atrocities.

For the Jewish State, unless Iran fully and publicly dismantles its machinery for creating nuclear weapons, there is no question that the country remains an existential threat to Israel.  As Netanyahu put it: “the bottom line, again, is that Iran fully dismantles its military nuclear program.”

In praising the U.S. leadership on international sanctions against Iran, Netanyahu explained he believes “that it’s the combination of a credible military threat and the pressure of those sanctions that have brought Iran to the negotiating table.”  He firmly urged Obama and other world leaders to maintain the pressure of those sanctions, and not to loosen them in response to the more cheerful countenance than Ahmadinejad showed throughout his presidency.

The Israeli leader said that it is the position of his country that if it is determined Iran is moving forward on its path to the creation of nuclear weapons, the sanctions should be strengthened.

The most succinct formulation of Netanyahu’s approach to dealing with Iran is, as he put it on Monday, “a credible military threat and strong sanctions, I think, is still the only formula that can get a peaceful resolution of this problem.”

At the end of his remarks, Netanyahu again referred to the negotiations between his country and the Arab Palestinians, and thanked Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for helping to “advance peace” between the two peoples.  While stating that he remains committed to that peace, he once again put on the record, that “for peace to endure, it must be based on Israel’s capacity to defend itself by itself.”

What Netanyahu said from the Oval Office on Monday provided language which the Obama team can use to show Netanyahu is grateful for the leadership the Americans have shown.

However, the actual words used by the Israeli leader on Monday made clear he doesn’t trust the new Iranian president any more than he did the last one. And Netanyahu also stated clearly that Israel will not agree to weaken itself in order to abide by demands made by the Arab Palestinians, or by demands made on their behalf.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Don’t Touch Nixon, He Saved my Life

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

JTA and the Forward are pushing a Reuters story suggesting the late President Richard Milhous Nixon made even more antisemitic statements in the Oval Office, both in person and over the phone.

This incriminating information emanated from 340 hours of tapes covering April 9 through July 12 1973, which have just been released by the Nixon Presidential Library.

In anticipation of Jewish demonstrators humiliating him with their “let my people go” demands concerning Soviet Jewry, right in front of the Soviet delegation to an upcoming cold war summit meeting, Nixon tells his pal Henry Kissinger, still national security adviser at the time (he was made Secretary of State on September 22, 1973):

“Let me say, Henry, it’s gonna be the worst thing that happened to Jews in American history. If they torpedo this summit — and it might go down for other reasons — I’m gonna put the blame on them, and I’m going to do it publicly at 9 o’clock at night before 80 million people.”

Did you just read the above quote as a Nixon impersonation? I know I did. And while that quote is at least anchored in a political strategy—many, including the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, believed that quiet, behind the scenes politics worked better for Soviet dissidents than Rabbi Kahane’s in-your-face demonstrations—other antisemitic quips were uttered with no political context, because the man had the antisemitism of his generation branded on his psyche.

I’ve learned over the years to ignore, if not outright accept that side of President Nixon, because of two big reasons: I believe he was the last great U.S. president, capable of utilizing the power of his office to deliver enormous benefits to a huge segment of humanity; and he saved my life.

An F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft is being loaded onto a C-5 Galaxy aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal

An F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft is being loaded onto a C-5 Galaxy aircraft. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal

The second part is easy: along with my own generation, I was an enlisted man during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. It began on October 7—my 19th birthday—and lasted 17 days, but by about the 10th day, the Israeli army had run out of practically everything. You name it – we didn’t have it.

And so it was President Richard Milhous Nixon who ordered the U.S. army to start flying us everything we needed, from M-16 rifles to tank shells to dark green work uniforms to whatever else we needed.

I had the opportunity on a number of occasions to be present at the international airport in Lod and to watch the military C-5 Galaxy planes landing, packed with replenishment goods. It was like watching enormous spaceships landing in the dark. They kept coming, rows of them, and they were one major reason we got out of that cursed war by the skin of our teeth. We lost 3,000 soldiers, my age, in a little over two weeks—the entire war of independence cost us 6 thousand lives, over two years.

In Europe, no one would allow the planes to land for refueling, except for Portugal. The nice people in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg refused to get involved. Wouldn’t be fair. Only a Portuguese gentleman by the name of António de Oliveira Salazar, with a strong anti-democratic reputation, let the Galaxies land. So I don’t care much for bad language against him, either. He, too, saved my life.

And I’m aware of the fact that it was U.S. foreign policy which drove Israel into the unexpected war of 1973 in the first place. Even that does not change the fact that I am filled with gratitude to President Nixon.

That’s the personal stuff. But he was a giant among presidents on so many other fronts. I believe, in general, America has done best with a Liberal Republican in the White House and Democrats controlling the legislator. It’s a powerful mix that gave birth to the EPA, opened the trade route to China and ended the war in Vietnam, to name but three major achievements. None of those things came without a price, and later presidents have squandered the wealth Nixon had left them. No matter, I still believe he was the greatest U.S. president in my lifetime.

Yori Yanover

Failing in Order to Succeed

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The rabbis teach that we can only truly understand Torah when we allow ourselves to fail at it (Gittin 43a). Unless we push ourselves to reach for deeper understanding, where we inevitably get it wrong before we can get it right, we will not grasp the very essence of the Jewish enterprise. Rashi here seems to think that it’s the public shame of getting it wrong (and the concomitant rebuke) that strengthens one’s intellectual rigor. It is not hard to think about giving constructive feedback (“rebuke”) when it comes to moral matters, but do we care enough about ideas that we (respectfully) challenge others when ideas are misinterpreted or misapplied? How much do we really value the marketplace of ideas and the assurance that we as individuals and as a society get it right?

History is full of examples of leaders who acknowledged that persistence in the face of failure was more important than individual failures. President Abraham Lincoln, whose army suffered many crushing defeats in the early years of the Civil War, said: “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.” A century later, Robert F. Kennedy echoed the optimistic spirit of youth when he said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Besides for being tragically assassinated, what these presidents have in common in that their causes lasted, their legacies carried on, and they are remembered as being among the greatest and most successful men to occupy the Oval Office.

Very often, one can be lured by the traps of conformism (just follow others’ ideas or practices) or isolationism (just follow one’s own marginal ideas and practices). Our job as Jews is to break free from these ploys for mediocrity. We must challenge ourselves and the status quo to reach higher by engaging with societal ideas but without blindly accepting them.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement) and founder and intellectual-spiritual leader in his own right, was anything but a conformist. He not only told his followers to be happy, but he also encouraged them to do silly things, highly unusual for a religious leader. Rebbe Nachman stated that each person had to fall in order to rise, and stressed the universality of this concept:

[E]ach person who fell … thinks that these words weren’t spoken for him, for he imagines that these ideas are only for great people who are always climbing from one level to the next. But truthfully, you should know and believe, that all these words were also said concerning the smallest of the small and the worst of the worst, for Hashem is forever good to all.

However, Rebbe Nachman went further, stating that it is “a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination.” Even the tendency to evil could serve G-d, as people worked through these passions and eventually overcame them. To Rebbe Nachman, it seems, spiritual stasis is the only unacceptable path.

We must be willing to learn and debate with others. Ideas matter. Inevitably that will lead to some level of shame when we get it wrong, but the promise land afterwards is much greater. It offers a culture of more honest, informed, connected individuals who are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of truth and who are willing to be wrong in order to get it right. Our great rabbinic and presidential leaders wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

Famous Last Words

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are pictured in the Oval Office, Nov. 29, 2012.

What does one say on such an occasion?

“Would you care for some dog?”

“Yes, it was actually Kenya. Now I’ll have to kill you.”

“Wanna’ see some amazing Area 51 photos?”

“Why don’t you buy yourself an island and become their president?”

“We were looking for a good nuclear waste dump and, guess what, Utah’s name came up.”

“I could really use your clout in negotiating with the Republicans…”

That last one would probably sting the worst. Unlike senator McCain, who kept his day job back in 2008, Romney is just going to have to retire with nothing to his name other than $300 million, give or take.

And he doesn’t even drink or smoke. I can’t believe only 30% of the Jews voted for him. What’s wrong with you, people?

Meanwhile, President Obama will be preparing to go after Netanyahu for the expansion of Jerusalem all the way to Maale Adumim, virtually scrapping the idea of a contiguous Palestinian state.

“Care for some dog?”

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/famous-last-words/2012/12/02/

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