In the comments on an earlier post on Barack Obama’s viciously anti-American pastor, Jeremiah Wright, various people complain that Obama is getting tagged with Wright’s words while John McCain is getting a free pass when it comes to the anti-Catholic and homophobic remarks of John Hagee, a pastor who has endorsed him. This is entirely specious. Obama credits Wright with his religious awakening. Obama had Wright officiate at his wedding. And he donated $22,500 to Wright’s church in 2006. McCain has no personal relationship with Hagee whatsoever. Wright is one of Obama’s mentors. It is true that Obama has now forthrightly condemned Wright’s words. But it is not credible that Obama knew nothing about Wright’s incendiary views, as he claims; even if he had not beenpresent for the sermons that have caused such a ruckus in the past few days, he was close enough to Wright to be entirely aware of his opinions. One doubts Wright is a shrinking violet about them in private conversation. The difference between Wright and Hagee is that while Hagee endorsed McCain, Obama has long endorsed Wright.
Posts For: March 14, 2008
After a day of feigning that Rev. Wright’s comments were in essence no big deal or taken out of context, the Obama camp, late on a Friday afternoon, has put out a statement condemning Wright’s inflammatory language and contending such language was never used in Obama’s presence.
This is yet another instance in which Obama seems unwilling or unable to face the media personally when challenged on a tough issue. You may recall his “your eight questions are up” attitude when confronted with Tony Rezko questions. Does he think he will escape having to face reporters and answer questions personally?
And was he really not aware of Rev. Wright’s views and language? Even if he was never present during any offending sermons, it seems somewhat less than believable that Obama, before the last few days, was in the dark about his “mentor’s” views and never read news accounts describing his fiery language. You can bet the Clinton camp will be working the weekend on this one.
Is Tibet burning? It is, literally and figuratively, especially in Lhasa, the capital of China’s so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. There, hundreds of monks and others fought with police today and have, according to the BBC, succeeded in taking control of the center of the city. Deaths have been reported. The Chinese government has effectively imposed martial law. Nonetheless, Tibetans continue to attack any symbol of the Chinese presence in what they consider their homeland. There are reports of disturbances in other Tibetan parts of China, such as Gansu province.
The Lhasa demonstrations began on Monday to mark the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. The disturbances are the biggest in the Tibetan capital since the pro-independence protests of 1989.
The American response has been uninspiring. “We believe Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto this morning at a press gaggle aboard Air Force One. “They need to respect multi-ethnicity in their society.” What the Chinese really need to do is immediately end their program of forced assimilation and political repression, what many have called a campaign of “cultural genocide.” Eventually, they need to leave traditional Tibetan lands. It is a tragedy that the Chinese misrule themselves; it is a crime they insist on ruining Tibet.
Predictably, Western governments have been calling on Beijing to have a “dialogue” with the Dalai Lama. Chinese leaders have not done that, despite His Holiness making significant concessions to pave the way for conversations. After years of Beijing’s intransigence on Tibet, the White House should have known that its words would have no effect on Chinese leaders.
Western nations cannot, as a practical matter, stop the Chinese from killing Tibetans in their capital. Yet Americans and others can show revulsion for Beijing’s goals and abhorrence of its tactics by downgrading their contacts with the modern Chinese state—preferably starting this afternoon. The White House should, among other things, cancel the President’s ill-advised trip to the Beijing Olympics this August. Our State Department should reverse Tuesday’s inexplicable decision to drop China from the list of the world’s ten worst human rights abusers. And if President Bush really means what he says about freedom and self-rule, it’s time for him to realize that this is where the rest of his legacy can be made or lost.
Thirty years ago this month, the journalist Sidney Zion wrote an article for New York magazine titled “The Palestine Problem: It’s All in A Name,” which he would update in 2003 for The Jewish Press. Zion essentially supported the right-wing Zionist argument against the historicity of the Kingdom of Jordan, while upending the right-wing Zionist argument against the historicity of a Palestinian people.
Not that the latter was necessarily an exclusively right-wing conceit — Labor party icon Golda Meir, for example, insisted publicly on more than one occasion that “There are no Palestinians, there are only Jordanians.”
“Of course,” wrote Zion, “she was wrong. In fact, there are no Jordanians, only Palestinians.”
Zion’s contention was that by pushing the idea that there was no such thing as a Palestinian Arab and acquiescing in the myth that Jordan is “an immutable entity, as distinct from Palestine as are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq,” Israeli leaders had helped obscure the empirical truths that Jordan was the artificial nation and “Jordanian” the artificial nationality. And their doing so lent important credence to the misperception, by now almost universally accepted, that Israel sits on the entirety of what was once Palestine.
The reality, Zion noted, was that “what began in 1920 as a mandate to turn Palestine into a Jewish homeland turned into a reverse Balfour Declaration, creating an Arab nation in four-fifths of Palestine and leaving the Jews to fight for statehood against the Arabs on the West Bank.”
Writing about Jordan in a 1981 New York Times op-ed column, Zion encapsulated in one paragraph the real history of Jordan and the repercussions of that history having disappeared down the memory hole:
I know people who think it’s two thousand years old. But Jordan was only the name of a river until 1922, when Winston Churchill, then colonial secretary, turned its East Bank into the Emirate of Transjordan – created an emirate out of the British Mandate territory of Palestine. Transjordan was 80 percent of the land mass of Palestine. Transjordan is Palestine. In 1946, by British fiat, [then-King] Hussein’s grandfather, Abdullah, became King of Transjordan. In 1948, Abdullah changed the name of his country to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Presto! The Ancient Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. So what? So everything. What was in every respect Palestine became a refugee camp for Palestinian Arabs, a host country for those “driven out” by the Jews. And so it is viewed today. The Hussein family, brought out of Arabia by Churchill, are the only true non-Palestinians living in Jordan today. Yet the world sees Palestine as wherever the Jews live.
Would history have turned out differently had Israel and its supporters, loudly and consistently, focused on the fact that the real “theft of Palestine” had been pulled off by the British for the sake of an Arab client and that almost without exception “Jordanians” are in fact Palestinians?
In his 1978 New York article, Zion felt that it indeed would make at least some difference “if the world were to understand that Israel now occupies only 20 percent of Palestine” and that “if it becomes clear that the Arab refugees and their children who crossed over to Jordan in 1948 did not enter a ‘host country’ but rather the Arab part of their own country . . . ”
Zion may have had some basis for hope 30 years ago, when Israel was but three decades old and not quite yet the international outcast it has since become. But now that Israel is twice as old as it was in 1978 and the world – including an appreciable number of Jews – has largely come to view the Arab-Israeli conflict through the prism of Israel’s enemies, such conjecture seems like nothing more than a sad joke.
It’s a story of missed opportunities, and of how a people lauded for their smarts permitted their history and patrimony to be hijacked while barely putting up a fight.
The McCain camp got bollixed up twice on the Rev. Wright front today. First, McCain advisor Charlie Black said that this issue is “no harm, no foul,” since we shouldn’t hold candidates responsible for the views of their supporters. Well, that’s all well and good, but it’s not applicable here. The concern here is that Obama–who attended Rev. Wright’s church, was married by him, had his kids baptized by him, and held him up as a mentor–might embrace, or at least fail to recognize the toxicity of, Wright’s views. Then, the McCain camp apologized for sending around a Wall Street Journal column by Ronald Kessler explaining exactly this point. Aside from the fact that journalists should be able to find their own news stories, I see absolutely nothing wrong with this.
None of this, by the way, should distract from the remarkable lack of interest in this story from the mainstream media (imagine if McCain attended a church where the minister uttered these things) or Obama’s own apparent lack of concern that voters might react adversely to Wright’s noxious brand of anti-Americanism.
Perhaps it’s me, but there seems to be something sloppy about the metaphorical turn of phrase the MSM has been repeating in describing the supposed lack of connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. There is indeed “no smoking gun” in the report recently released by the Institute for Defense Analyses.
And thank God for that. There is, however, a purchased gun, some bullets, a trained shooter, and a plan to kill. “No smoking gun” is what happens when the crime is prevented. “No smoking gun” is exactly the stated outcome the Bush administration was hoping for back in 2003 when making the case for going into Iraq.
Now, let’s pretend that officials and the media are saying something like, “close, but no cigar” in reference to the Saddam-al Qaeda link. That, at least, isn’t an automatic vindication of Bush’s Iraq position. However, it is ridiculous. Contrary to the anti-war crowd’s jubilation, the report confirms that Saddam’s regime served as partner, sponsor, and even mentor to jihadist organizations, and indeed can be “linked” to al Qaeda. From the report’s abstract (via Michael Goldfarb):
Because Saddam’s security organizations and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some way, a “de facto” link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust.
So: not only was there a link, but the link was “inevitable.” Which was precisely the concern of those in favor of the 2003 invasion. The report eloquently dispenses with the myth that Saddam’s was a secular regime and therefore at odds with Islamist terror groups, noting that the increased popularity of Islamic extremism enabled the Iraqi regime to exploit terrorism as “one of the few tools remaining in Saddam’s ‘coercion’ tool box.” It never mattered whether or not Saddam shared the Islamist fervor of al Qaeda, so long as he could bend the fervor of its followers to his purpose. The fact there is no smoking gun is conclusive evidence that we didn’t let him do that.
Hillary Clinton is not stupid. She knows perfectly well that she’s not going to catch up with Barack Obama when it comes to delegates or the overall popular vote in the primaries, and that her lead with superdelegates is not at all secure. She’s staying in the race to see what happens — to lengthen it so that there is a chance Obama will implode for some reason or combination of reasons, leaving her to pick up the pieces.
When Hillary and her people talk about Obama’s lack of experience, they are not just talking about foreign policy and Washington voting. They are, implicitly, talking about his lack of experience with a hostile media. He has never been subjected to the withering examination of a reportorial or even punditorial pack — not in his service in the Illinois state senate, not in his 2004 Senate race, and not even when it came to his well-reviewed books. One never, ever knows how someone will hold up under such circumstances, or how quickly a reputation can be damaged.
Obviously, the repulsive statements of Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, about how 9/11 represented “the chickens coming home to roost” for “White America” might represent a turning point — and one that would not have happened to benefit Hillary had she seen supposed reason and bowed out when it was clear she couldn’t win on points. Obama is fortunate this week to have had a ju-jitsu victory on the subject of race, parrying a remark about him by Geraldine Ferraro into a “nobody-is-allowed-to-raise-the-subject of-how-I-might-have-benefited-from-my-blackness” moment. That, and the Spitzer scandal, have kept the Wright story from getting full purchase in the media. But it’s out now, and even the extreme queasiness of the press in dealing with material that might be harmful to Obama can’t last forever.
And forever is a long time. The Pennsylvania primary is more than a month away. Maybe more will turn up to cause the superdelegates such concern about November that they will line up behind her foursquare. Politics is a dynamic business.
Barack Obama may or may not recover from the Jeremiah Wright controversy, but Andrew Sullivan will never recover from this.
This week, Angela Merkel becomes the first German chancellor to address the Israeli parliament. This is as it should be.
And yet, one cannot really blame those few members of Knesset who have threatened to walk out in protest. There are certain things that neither time nor reason overcome. Nothing can ever make up for the Holocaust. The Jews are a people of exceptionally long memory, and we should be more surprised by the Knesset’s willingness to host Merkel than by the few who oppose the visit.
On this issue, ambivalence is the only reasonable posture. The Jewish state is not terribly good at building and keeping international alliances, probably because for millennia it has had good reason to be suspicious of other peoples. Inviting Merkel is the right move at the right time: under the leadership of Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Continent has shifted to its most pro-Israel stance since at least the 1950’s. Yet the Holocaust will forever be there, with all its lessons for the world, and it is right for the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, to make sure it is never forgotten.
Forgive, but never, ever, forget.
Michigan appears to be on the brink of solving its delegate dispute with a plan for a re-vote primary. Hillary Clinton beat out the “uncommitted” the first time around in January and will be banking that Michigan is another Ohio–a win based on downscale Democrats. A win in Michigan would also be further proof that Obama is a niche candidate riding a wave of support from college kids, African Americans, and elites on two coasts.
Meanwhile, the plan for a mail-in re-vote in Florida seems to have crumbled. The choice there is coming down to: no vote, an in-person re-vote, or a delegate compromise. No vote means Florida’s delegates won’t be seated, Hillary Clinton will organize street demonstrations (just you wait, she will) and Barack Obama won’t (I’d wager) intervene to “make sure every vote counts.” It also presents the very real danger that John McCain will go to town on the notion that the Democrats have “abandoned” Florida. (He already leads comfortably in head-to-head match ups against both Democrats.)
The re-vote option, a full blown in-person election, would cost $25 million. The state party and the DNC have pleaded poverty, but this strikes me as a sum which Hillary’s wealthy and powerful friends could raise in a week. It would be . . . odd to invite so much trouble, throw out delegates from a key state, and give Clinton a rallying cry over a comparatively measly $25 million.
Finally, there is always the chance of a compromise allowing a portion of the original delegates to be seated. This would give Clinton a delegate advantage (she won the first, essentially uncontested primary 50%-33%). And it would also preserve the principle that the DNC has the right to set its own primary schedule.
The bottom line? More delegates, but perhaps not as many as Clinton would like, will probably be back in play. And the grousing will have just begun.
After watching the video of Barack Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright damning America and blaming her for the attacks of 9/11, Polk Award winner Josh Marshall wrote
It’s racially charged and will certainly get a lot of play, though I’m not sure there’s much in it that doesn’t come out of the sermon tradition of African-American Christianity with a 60s twist. Last week, Obama, who has denounced various of Wright’s statements, told a Jewish audience, Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” Watch it yourself and make your own judgments. For myself, when watching something like this, it is often difficult to distinguish between what I actually find offensive myself and what it is ingrained in me to believe others will find offensive.
Marshall is unsure if he’s offended by a popular American religious leader repeating “God damn America” to swelling applause. Fine. But I’m sure I’m offended that Marshall seeks to excuse that kind of garbage as merely “the sermon tradition of African-American Christianity with a 60s twist.” He’s not giving much credit to a pretty impressive tradition. And doesn’t he find it curious that a “60s twist” should come in 2008, as a black man stands on the verge of the Democratic presidential nomination?
(HT: Michael Weiss)
For once, in a story about
ABC news reports: “MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Barack Obama for president, is encouraging citizens to develop 30-second pro-Obama television ads which will be judged by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Oliver Stone, multiple Grammy-winner John Legend and others.” Oh, my. My first thought: how happy must this make John McCain? In fact, I’m not so sure this isn’t a SNL parody or a sly gag by the RNC. MoveOn.org and Oliver Stone lining up behind Obama? If you are an aspiring filmmaker, do you play for Stone’s vote with a wild conspiracy piece tying the JFK assassination, 9/11, and Mark Penn together? (If the winning film stars Reverend Jeremiah Wright, we’ll know this is really Karl Rove oppo work gone wild.)
On a slightly serious note, isn’t this starting to look like a pattern for Obama? Already identified with a wife and minister who think America is mean and racist, Obama would do well to get back in the mainstream of American values and not associate himself with organizations and people who have made a career of denigrating America and ingratiating themselves with America’s enemies. It probably is not a good idea to have as the contest sponsor the group whose idea of effective political advertising is a full page in the New York Times vilifying an Amercian general with a second grade pun ( “General Betray-Us”) . And does Obama really want as an ad judge the film director who hobnobbed with Hugo Chavez (and defended FARC) and made a fawning documentary about Fidel Castro? And you wonder why Obama is losing the lunchpail Democrats.