After all these years of endlessly repeating the same tired tropes on the New York Times op-ed page, taking Maureen Dowd’s columns seriously requires a suspension of disbelief that is normally only needed to watch science fiction. But though the Queen of Snark lacks the credibility to discuss virtually any issue in an intelligent manner, she does have a knack for picking up on whatever hateful viruses are circulating through the circulatory system of our body politic. Worried about prejudice against Mormons? Dowd was the first to provide mainstream media space to that brand of hate during the current presidential campaign. Concerned about the way some on the left are hoping to utilize the debate about Iran to delegitimize support for Israel? Dowd again is the one to ensure this nasty piece of business gets another airing by arguing that Romney wants to fight wars for the sake of the Jews.
In her column in today’s Times Sunday Review, Dowd picks up on the same theme explored on the paper’s website on Thursday that I discussed earlier today. While it can be argued that she can always be relied upon to seize upon any point, no matter how trivial, to heap scorn on any Republican (her brief stint as a bipartisan basher of Bill Clinton during l’affaire Lewinsky may have earned her a Pulitzer but since then she has stuck to snarking conservatives), her attack on Mitt Romney’s foreign policy stance is particularly creepy. Unlike the rest of the Obama cheerleading squad that occupies the Times opinion pages, she is not content to just bash him for attacking Obama’s apologies, weak leadership and disdain for Israel. Dowd sees him and running mate Paul Ryan as the cat’s-paws of a shadowy group of “powerful” Jewish “neocons” who are out to seize the country in his name and enforce, “a duty to invade and bomb Israel’s neighbors,” on Americans. In a perfect illustration of how hate for Israel shows where the left and right meet, Dowd channeled Pat Buchanan in arguing that Romney/Ryan are the “puppets” of neoconservative conspirators who want Americans to die for Israel.
Dowd doubled down on Eric Lewis’ point that it is “outrageous” for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to demand that the president state some red lines about Iran. But all Netanyahu is doing is asking the president to show us that he has some intention of doing something about Iran other than talking about the threat. The pushback from the pro-Obama camp against the suggestion that the administration stop pretending that failed diplomacy and unenforced sanctions will persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear ambition reinforces the suspicion that once he is re-elected, the president will have the “flexibility” to choose to “contain” rather than stop Iran. That is a position that would endanger both the U.S. and Israel.
Dowd’s biggest target is Dan Senor, an author and former Bush administration staffer who is one of Romney and Ryan’s top advisors. But neither Senor nor Romney nor any American supporter of Israel needs to apologize to the likes of Dowd for their belief that the U.S. should keep its word to stop Iran. Though those who write about “neocons slithering” are clearly intending to stoke prejudice, even Obama has paid lip service to the fact that a nuclear Iran is a deadly threat to the entire Middle East as well as to the interests of the United States. Though Romney is not always the most consistent or coherent of thinkers about foreign policy, he does seem to understand this dilemma a lot better than Obama and his hateful press hit squad.
President Obama came into office determined to try to distance the United States from Israel and to appease the Muslim world. He accomplished the former but failed miserably with the latter as the spectacle of besieged U.S. embassies in the Middle East this week has shown. Throughout the last year, Obama’s critics have noted that he seemed more interested in stopping Israel from defending itself than in halting Iran’s nuclear program. Now his supporters seek to suppress any pressure for action on Iran by branding it the work of neocon conspirators.
The bottom line here is the same despicable “Israel Lobby” smear that seeks to silence friends of Israel through the use of traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes. Dowd’s column marks yet another step down into the pit of hate-mongering that has become all too common at the Times. This is a tipping point that should alarm even the most stalwart liberal Jewish supporters of the president.