Commentary Magazine


Topic: Barack Hussein Obama

New World’s Record for Chutzpah: Obama’s Seder

Some 19 years ago, the first president Bush earned the enmity of American Jews with his rant about being “one lone guy” standing up against the horde of AIPAC activists exercising their constitutional right to petition Congress. Bush’s statement symbolized the intolerance and enmity that his administration felt toward Israel and its American friends. But say one thing for that Bush and his secretary of state, James “f@#$ the Jews” Baker: at least they never pretended to be anything but what they were, country-club establishment Republicans who were not comfortable with Israel or Jewish symbols. Not so Barack Hussein Obama.

After a week spent beating up on Israel, blowing a minor gaffe into an international incident, subjecting Israel’s prime minister to unprecedented insults that Obama would never think of trying on even the most humble Third World leader, and establishing the principle that the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem — even in existing Jewish neighborhoods — is illegal and an affront to American interests – after all that, Obama plans on spending Monday night mouthing a few lines from the Passover Haggadah at a Seder held in the White House.

According to the New York Times, Obama will take part in a Seder in the Old Family Dining Room along with a band of court Jews such as David Axelrod. The Seder, as the newspaper notes, will end, according to tradition, with the declaration of ‘next year in Jerusalem.’ (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)”

There will, no doubt, be many American Jews who are still so insecure in their place in American society that they will feel flattered that even a president who has proved himself the most hostile chief executive to Israel in a generation will pay lip service to Judaism in this way. No doubt the planting of this sympathetic story on the front page of the Sunday New York Times is calculated to soften the blow of his Jerusalem policy and his disdain for Israel in the eyes of many of Obama’s loyal Jewish supporters.

The vast majority of American Jews are not only liberals; they are, as they say in Texas, “yellow dog Democrats,” meaning they would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the Democratic ticket. But surely a sycophantic article like the Times feature must grate on even their sensibilities. Can any Jew with a smidgeon of self-respect or affection for Israel think that having a president say “Next year in Jerusalem!” while sitting at a table with matzo and macaroons makes up for policies that treat the 200,000 Jews living in the post-1967 Jewish neighborhoods of their own ancient capital as illegal settlers on stolen land?

Perhaps Obama and his coterie of Jewish advisers think they are entitled to expropriate the symbols of Judaism to lend legitimacy to their anti-Israel policies. Of course, if Obama had any real sympathy for the people of Israel or the Jewish people, he might instead spend Monday night reevaluating a policy that appears to concede nuclear weapons to the rabid Jew-haters of Islamist Iran and reinforces the intransigence of the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority and its allies across the Muslim world.

This week, Alan Dershowitz, who still counts himself among Obama’s supporters, warned the president that if he failed on Iran, his legacy would be indistinguishable from that of Neville Chamberlain, who appeased Hitler. He’s right, but it looks as though Chamberlain is becoming Obama’s model because, in addition to employing appeasement strategies, the president’s diktat on Jerusalem and the West Bank is faintly reminiscent of the British White Paper of 1939, which forbade the entrance of more Jewish immigrants into Palestine as the Holocaust loomed and sought to restrict the Jewish presence in most of the country.

But like the elder George Bush, at least Neville Chamberlain had the good manners not to try to portray himself as a friend of the Jews by having a Passover Seder at Number Ten Downing Street while simultaneously pursuing such policies.

Some 19 years ago, the first president Bush earned the enmity of American Jews with his rant about being “one lone guy” standing up against the horde of AIPAC activists exercising their constitutional right to petition Congress. Bush’s statement symbolized the intolerance and enmity that his administration felt toward Israel and its American friends. But say one thing for that Bush and his secretary of state, James “f@#$ the Jews” Baker: at least they never pretended to be anything but what they were, country-club establishment Republicans who were not comfortable with Israel or Jewish symbols. Not so Barack Hussein Obama.

After a week spent beating up on Israel, blowing a minor gaffe into an international incident, subjecting Israel’s prime minister to unprecedented insults that Obama would never think of trying on even the most humble Third World leader, and establishing the principle that the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem — even in existing Jewish neighborhoods — is illegal and an affront to American interests – after all that, Obama plans on spending Monday night mouthing a few lines from the Passover Haggadah at a Seder held in the White House.

According to the New York Times, Obama will take part in a Seder in the Old Family Dining Room along with a band of court Jews such as David Axelrod. The Seder, as the newspaper notes, will end, according to tradition, with the declaration of ‘next year in Jerusalem.’ (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)”

There will, no doubt, be many American Jews who are still so insecure in their place in American society that they will feel flattered that even a president who has proved himself the most hostile chief executive to Israel in a generation will pay lip service to Judaism in this way. No doubt the planting of this sympathetic story on the front page of the Sunday New York Times is calculated to soften the blow of his Jerusalem policy and his disdain for Israel in the eyes of many of Obama’s loyal Jewish supporters.

The vast majority of American Jews are not only liberals; they are, as they say in Texas, “yellow dog Democrats,” meaning they would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the Democratic ticket. But surely a sycophantic article like the Times feature must grate on even their sensibilities. Can any Jew with a smidgeon of self-respect or affection for Israel think that having a president say “Next year in Jerusalem!” while sitting at a table with matzo and macaroons makes up for policies that treat the 200,000 Jews living in the post-1967 Jewish neighborhoods of their own ancient capital as illegal settlers on stolen land?

Perhaps Obama and his coterie of Jewish advisers think they are entitled to expropriate the symbols of Judaism to lend legitimacy to their anti-Israel policies. Of course, if Obama had any real sympathy for the people of Israel or the Jewish people, he might instead spend Monday night reevaluating a policy that appears to concede nuclear weapons to the rabid Jew-haters of Islamist Iran and reinforces the intransigence of the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority and its allies across the Muslim world.

This week, Alan Dershowitz, who still counts himself among Obama’s supporters, warned the president that if he failed on Iran, his legacy would be indistinguishable from that of Neville Chamberlain, who appeased Hitler. He’s right, but it looks as though Chamberlain is becoming Obama’s model because, in addition to employing appeasement strategies, the president’s diktat on Jerusalem and the West Bank is faintly reminiscent of the British White Paper of 1939, which forbade the entrance of more Jewish immigrants into Palestine as the Holocaust loomed and sought to restrict the Jewish presence in most of the country.

But like the elder George Bush, at least Neville Chamberlain had the good manners not to try to portray himself as a friend of the Jews by having a Passover Seder at Number Ten Downing Street while simultaneously pursuing such policies.

Read Less

False Charges of Israeli Racism Are No Defense of Obama’s Bias

Roger Cohen’s decision to join the crowd piling on Israel with a column that seeks to fan the flames of anger at Israel over the building of Jewish homes in Jerusalem was to be expected. Just about everything the Times columnist has written in the last year, including his shameful apologia for Iran’s dictators, has been related to his animus for Israel. Cohen’s bile is nothing new. Nor is his absurd characterization of a housing project in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem as an example of “the steady Israeli appropriation of the physical space for Palestine” or the “cynical scattering of the Palestinian people into enclaves that make a farce of statehood.” If the Palestinians wanted their own sovereign state with its capital in part of Jerusalem, they could have had it in 2000 or in 2008 when the Israelis offered it to them. They don’t, but rather than focus on the fact that the conflict isn’t about borders or settlements but about Israel’s existence, Israel-bashers like Cohen pretend that it’s all the fault of the Jews for insisting on their right to live in Jerusalem.

But Cohen’s column concludes with a new slur: the idea that the hostility with which most Israelis view Barack Obama is the result of racism. He writes that a cartoon in Ma’ariv depicts “Obama cooking Netanyahu in a pot.” But this is, he helpfully points out, not a symbol of an American trying to put an Israeli politician in hot water but “the image — a black man cooking a white man over an open fire — also said something about the way Israel views its critics.”

Israel’s liberal critics in this country are flummoxed by the fact that Obama is the least-liked American president by Israelis since Jimmy Carter. But rather than admit that this is the result of the administration’s conscious decision to distance itself from the Jewish state, writers like Cohen spin this understandable antagonism as being somehow the result of an Israeli character flaw. This is not the first time that the notion of Israeli racism has been claimed as the source of Obama’s unpopularity. On March 8, on MSNBC’s Hardball, Chris Matthews and New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner made the same claim when they discussed Obama’s low standing in Israel, though Bronner tried to put in some sort of context:

MATTHEWS: OK, that tells you a lot. So tell me why the president of the United States is so far at the bottom? Is it his middle name, Hussein?

BRONNER: I would say that there is some level of prejudice about the fact that he had some Islamic background through his stepfather. But I think it has to do more with the fact that when he came into office a year ago, he wanted to recalibrate the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. And the easiest and clearest way of doing that was to put some distance between the United States and Israel, and he did that. And that made people nervous. I think there‘s also some sense here that—some degree of racism, to be perfectly honest.

MATTHEWS: Yes. They—because they see it as a black man—you know.

But had Barack Hussein Obama come into office ready to make good on his campaign pledges of support for Israel and not chosen to pick pointless fights with Israel’s government or downplay the threat from Iran, his poll numbers would be very different. George W. Bush also came into office with low Israeli popularity ratings, but he proved his friendship for the Jewish state with actions that eventually overshadowed the hostility most Jews felt for his father. Had Obama not sought to downgrade the alliance with Jerusalem, no one would be talking about the color of his skin having any impact on the way Israelis think of him. The attempt to blame the justified skepticism of Israelis about Obama’s intentions toward their country on Jewish racism is nothing but a contemptible slur.

Roger Cohen’s decision to join the crowd piling on Israel with a column that seeks to fan the flames of anger at Israel over the building of Jewish homes in Jerusalem was to be expected. Just about everything the Times columnist has written in the last year, including his shameful apologia for Iran’s dictators, has been related to his animus for Israel. Cohen’s bile is nothing new. Nor is his absurd characterization of a housing project in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem as an example of “the steady Israeli appropriation of the physical space for Palestine” or the “cynical scattering of the Palestinian people into enclaves that make a farce of statehood.” If the Palestinians wanted their own sovereign state with its capital in part of Jerusalem, they could have had it in 2000 or in 2008 when the Israelis offered it to them. They don’t, but rather than focus on the fact that the conflict isn’t about borders or settlements but about Israel’s existence, Israel-bashers like Cohen pretend that it’s all the fault of the Jews for insisting on their right to live in Jerusalem.

But Cohen’s column concludes with a new slur: the idea that the hostility with which most Israelis view Barack Obama is the result of racism. He writes that a cartoon in Ma’ariv depicts “Obama cooking Netanyahu in a pot.” But this is, he helpfully points out, not a symbol of an American trying to put an Israeli politician in hot water but “the image — a black man cooking a white man over an open fire — also said something about the way Israel views its critics.”

Israel’s liberal critics in this country are flummoxed by the fact that Obama is the least-liked American president by Israelis since Jimmy Carter. But rather than admit that this is the result of the administration’s conscious decision to distance itself from the Jewish state, writers like Cohen spin this understandable antagonism as being somehow the result of an Israeli character flaw. This is not the first time that the notion of Israeli racism has been claimed as the source of Obama’s unpopularity. On March 8, on MSNBC’s Hardball, Chris Matthews and New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner made the same claim when they discussed Obama’s low standing in Israel, though Bronner tried to put in some sort of context:

MATTHEWS: OK, that tells you a lot. So tell me why the president of the United States is so far at the bottom? Is it his middle name, Hussein?

BRONNER: I would say that there is some level of prejudice about the fact that he had some Islamic background through his stepfather. But I think it has to do more with the fact that when he came into office a year ago, he wanted to recalibrate the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. And the easiest and clearest way of doing that was to put some distance between the United States and Israel, and he did that. And that made people nervous. I think there‘s also some sense here that—some degree of racism, to be perfectly honest.

MATTHEWS: Yes. They—because they see it as a black man—you know.

But had Barack Hussein Obama come into office ready to make good on his campaign pledges of support for Israel and not chosen to pick pointless fights with Israel’s government or downplay the threat from Iran, his poll numbers would be very different. George W. Bush also came into office with low Israeli popularity ratings, but he proved his friendship for the Jewish state with actions that eventually overshadowed the hostility most Jews felt for his father. Had Obama not sought to downgrade the alliance with Jerusalem, no one would be talking about the color of his skin having any impact on the way Israelis think of him. The attempt to blame the justified skepticism of Israelis about Obama’s intentions toward their country on Jewish racism is nothing but a contemptible slur.

Read Less

The Repulsive Politics of Tom Tancredo

I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.

But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.

There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.

No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.

I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.

But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.

There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.

No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.

Read Less




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