The Empathy Slur

The MSM is intoxicated with the Obama “change” meme, even if there is little evidence of deviation from Bush’s actual policies. The Washington Post reports on President Obama’s Middle East remarks at the State Department this week:

In his remarks at the State Department, however, Obama did not veer too far from what had been Bush administration orthodoxy. He restated three conditions that the Islamist movement Hamas — which controls Gaza — must meet before it can be accepted as a diplomatic partner, even though Mitchell in 2007 co-wrote an editorial saying that “sometimes it’s hard to stop a war if you don’t talk to those who are involved in it.”

Well, the new President can’t be the same as George W. Bush so the Post concocts a point of differentiation: President Obama is showing “greater empathy” for the Palestinians. This is absurd. President Bush never lacked “empathy” for the Palestinians and, in fact, made the creation of a Palestinian state a fixture of U.S. policy and rhetoric about the Middle East.

In speech after speech — whether at the start of the Annapolis Conference in November 2007 or in the Rose Garden speech in April 2002 —  President Bush spoke eloquently of the aspirations of the Palestinians to live in peace and seek a better life for their children. From his Rose Garden speech:

[T]he world has watched with growing concern the horror of bombings and burials and the stark picture of tanks in the street. Across the world, people are grieving for Israelis and Palestinians who have lost their lives.

When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future, itself, is dying — the future of the Palestinian people and the future of the Israeli people. We mourn the dead, and we mourn the damage done to the hope of peace, the hope of Israel’s and the Israelis’ desire for a Jewish state at peace with its neighbors; the hope of the Palestinian people to build their own independent state.

From Annapolis:

We meet to lay the foundation for the establishment of a new nation – a democratic Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in peace and security. We meet to help bring an end to the violence that has been the true enemy of the aspirations of both the Israelis and Palestinians.

.   .    .

The Palestinian people are blessed with many gifts and talents. They want the opportunity to use those gifts to better their own lives and build a better future for their children. They want the dignity that comes with sovereignty and independence. They want justice and equality under the rule of law. They want freedom from violence and fear.

The people of Israel have just aspirations, as well. They want their children to be able to ride a bus or to go to school without fear of suicide bombers. They want an end to rocket attacks and constant threats of assault. They want their nation to be recognized and welcomed in the region where they live.

Today, Palestinians and Israelis each understand that helping the other to realize their aspirations is key to realizing their own aspirations – and both require an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state. Such a state will provide Palestinians with the chance to lead lives of freedom and purpose and dignity. Such a state will help provide the Israelis with something they have been seeking for generations: to live in peace with their neighbors.

But President Bush’s oft-stated desire for a better life for the Palestinians is at odds with the MSM storyline that he was callous or out of touch. He couldn’t possibly have been just as concerned and empathetic as the all-caring, all-feeling President Obama.

Now all of this does raise the issue as to whether the degree of empathy the President “feels” is relevant as a matter of international policy. Is Hamas impressed by the fond wishes of the President for the people it uses as human shields? Does the UN pull back from its anti-Israel vendetta when it hears the President declare concern for humanitarian suffering? We know the answer from eight years of the Bush administration: No.

As time passes we may see an actual, rather than invented, divergence regarding Middle East policy from the Bush years. George Mitchell’s appointment has not engendered confidence by those who remember his 2001 report, a masterpiece of moral relativism. But for now, it appears that not much has changed –which explains why the media has to invent points of differentiation.