Monthly Archives: June 2009

Carmen Miranda and Her Gay Caballeros

Yes, another Mark Steyn gem:

In a lousy week, Mark Sanford had one stroke of luck: Michael Jackson chose the day after the governor’s news conference to moonwalk into eternity, and thus gave the media’s pop therapists a more rewarding subject to feast on – or at any rate one of the few stories whose salient points are weirder than Sanford’s. Not that the governor didn’t do his best to keep his end up on the pop culture allusions: “I’ve spent the last five days crying in Argentina,” he revealed, in presumably unconscious hommage to Evita.

The plot owed less to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber than to one of those Fox movies of the early Forties in which some wholesome All-American type escapes the stress and strain of modern life by taking off for a quiet weekend in Latin America, and the next thing you know they’re doing the rhumba on the floor of a Rio nightclub surrounded by Carmen Miranda and 200 gay caballeros prancing around waving giant bananas. In this case, the gentlemen of the South Carolina Press were the befuddled caballeros and Gov. Sanford was bananas.

There is a rather large point to all this. As my National Review colleague Kathryn Jean Lopez observed, a sex scandal a week from the Republicans will guarantee us government health care by the fall – in the same way that the British Tories’ boundlessly versatile sexual predilections helped deliver the Blair landslide of 1997. And once government health care’s in place the game’s over: Socialized medicine redefines the relationship between the citizen and the state in all the wrong ways, and, if you cross that bridge, it’s all but impossible to go back. So, if ever there were a season for GOP philanderers not to unpeel their bananas, this summer is it.

At the news conference, the governor rationalized his unfaithfulness to Mrs. Sanford by saying that he needed to get out of “the bubble.” Tina Brown, proprietrix of The Daily Beast, hooted in derision: “The bubble’s where you’re s’posed to be, Mark. That’s what all the rubber-chicken fundraisers you put her through were for.” But a more basic question is: Why does the minimally empowered executive of a midsize state with no particular national prominence need to be in “the bubble” in the first place?

Evidently he is. Much of the charade involved in the scandal arose from the need to throw off his “security detail”: The Chevy Suburban pulling up outside the Governor’s Mansion, Sanford casually tossing his running shoes, a pair of green shorts and a sleeping bag in the back, turning off the GPS locator… Although staffers kept up his ghostwritten tweet of the day on Twitter, by Monday state senators were revealing that they hadn’t heard from the Governor since Thursday.

And we can’t have that, can we?

Even Charles Krauthammer on Fox News professed to be concerned at a governor wandering off incommunicado. What would happen if there was a hurricane or a terrorist attack on South Carolina? Well, I’d imagine that state agencies would muddle through to one degree of competence or another, and that the physical presence of the governor would make absolutely zero difference – any more than, on the day, George Pataki made a difference to New York’s response to 9/11 (good) or Kathleen Blanco to Louisiana’s response to Katrina (abysmal and embarrassing, but deriving from the state’s broader political culture rather than anything Gov. Blanco did or didn’t do on the big day). In a republic of limited government, the governor, two-thirds of the state legislature and the heads of every regulatory agency should be able to go “hiking the Appalachian Trail” for a lot longer than five days, and nobody would notice.

Instead, we have the governor of South Carolina resorting to subterfuge worthy of one of those Mitteleuropean operettas where the Ruritanian princess disguises herself as a scullery maid to leave the castle by the back gate for an assignation with a dashing if impoverished hussar garbed as a stable lad. Perhaps some enterprising producer would like to option a Carolinian update of “Prince Bob,” the hit of the 1902 theatrical season in Budapest, in which the eponymous hero, a son of Queen Victoria, escapes “the bubble” of Buckingham Palace by getting out on the streets and wooing a Cockney serving wench.

Of course, being nominally a republic of citizen-legislators, we have inaugurated the post-modern pseudo-breakout from “the bubble,” in which the president and his family sally forth to an ice cream parlor in Alexandria, Va., accompanied only by 200 of their most adoring sycophants from the press corps. These trips, explained The New York Times, enable the Obamas to “stay connected” with ordinary people, like White House reporters…

I was asked the other day about the difference between American and British sex scandals. In its heyday, Brit sex was about the action – Lord Lambton’s three-in-a-bed biracial sex romp; Harvey Proctor’s industrial-scale spanking of rent boys; Max Mosley’s Nazi bondage sessions, with a fine eye for historical accuracy and the orders barked out in surprisingly accurate German; Stephen Milligan’s accidental auto-erotic asphyxiation while lying on a kitchen table wearing fishnet stockings…. With the exception of the last ill-fated foray, there was an insouciance to these remarkably specialized peccadilloes.

By contrast, American sex scandals seem to be either minor campaign-finance infractions – the cheerless half-hearted affair with an aide – or, like Gov. Sanford’s pitiful tale (at least as recounted at his news conference and as confirmed by the e-mails), a glimpse of loneliness and social isolation, as if in the end all they want is the chance to be sitting at the bar telling the gal with the nice smile, “My wife, and my staffers, and my security detail, and the State House press corps, and the guy who writes my Twitter Tweet of the Day, don’t understand me.”

Small government, narrow responsibilities, part-time legislators and executives, a minimal number of aides, lots of days off: Let’s burst the bubble.

The Democratic Party At Prayer

Rich Baehr on Barry and Jews:

Two recent public opinion surveys released in Israel and the United States demonstrate that the campaign by President Obama and members of his diplomatic team to criticize and isolate Israel over the issue of settlements in the West Bank is having an impact in both countries.

In Israel, a survey sponsored by the Jerusalem Post revealed a stunning result: just 6% of Israeli Jews now regard the U.S. president as pro-Israel. Another 86% regard Obama as either pro-Palestinian (50%) or neutral between the two parties (36%). No American president has ever been viewed in Israel this way, and it has taken but five months for the Israelis to come to understand the new reality in U.S.-Israeli relations — that the special relationship and friendship between the two countries has ended, at least at the level of the U.S. president and his administration.

A second survey conducted by the Israel Project to measure support for Israel or the Palestinians in the United States indicates that the withering criticism of Israel by the new administration has taken a toll on support for Israel in the U.S. In five months, support for Israel has dropped from 57% to 49%

The administration has made three arguments in support of its new tougher approach with Israel:

1. The Israeli settlements are at the core of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
2. The Israel-Palestinian conflict, and in particular, the perception that the U.S. is on Israel’s side, is a primary reason for Muslim hostility to the U.S.
3. If Israel wants the United States and other nations to increase pressure on Iran to end its nuclear program, it needs to stop settlement growth and be prepared to abandon all settlements in the West Bank (as it did in Gaza) and retreat to the “green line (the pre-Six Day War border)….

The administration has made a bet that by focusing on settlements, an issue that has been controversial both within Israel and among American Jews, it can divide and conquer. There are many liberal Jews who are totally in thrall to the Obama agenda on domestic issues and to Obama personally (psychiatric textbooks could be written on this latter item, but regrettably, they would need to be autobiographical).

During the campaign, there was concern among some liberal Jews about Obama’s history and long friendship with people hostile to Israel such as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Professor Rashid Khalidi, Ali Abunimah, and Samantha Power. To counter this, the campaign rolled out a chorus line of Chicago Jews who could swear for Obama’s bona fides as to his love for both Israel and the Jews. For most liberal Jews, Israel is an issue — but not the issue. Abortion rights, separation of church and state, stem cell research, universal health care, saving the planet — these issues are what ignite real political passion for many liberal Jews, not support for Israel. When I appeared on a panel for the NJDC at the Democratic convention, people in the audience seemed annoyed that the subjects of support for Israel or the Iranian threat were even raised as issues.

But the poll results from Israel have got to be worrying to the Obama team. Liberal Jews are a critically important fundraising group and voter bloc for Democrats. With the economy remaining very weak and Obama’s national approval ratings sagging, the 2010 midterm elections and the presidential race in 2012 could be more competitive than were the Democratic sweeps in 2006 and 2008.

Will some liberal Jews step back, uncomfortable with the perception that Obama is hostile to Israel? Has Obama crossed a threshold among Jewish voters, much as Jimmy Carter did in 1979-1980, leading to a greatly diminished level of Jewish support in his run for re-election (Carter won but 45% of the Jewish vote in 1980).

To counter this perception, the lapdogs of the Jewish left — in particular, J-Street (a group whose real mission seems to be to reduce the power and influence of AIPAC) and the NJDC — are furiously spinning how Obama is still fond of Israel and the right choice for peace (which presumably is just around the corner if only Israel caved on the settlements issue). It is too early to tell if Obama’s near daily haranguing of Israel has cost him any substantial Jewish support at home. Blindness, after all, is not cured by taking off an eye patch. And to be sure, Obama has more public relations skills and personal charm than Carter ever had, and a far more compliant canine-like obedient national media committed to protecting the Obama brand.

But there is anxiety out there among some liberal Jews about Obama’s cold hand to Israel, coupled with Iran’s nuclear program, which despite all the current turmoil is full steam ahead at the moment. Some Democratic members of the House and Senate are clearly sensing there is a problem with a normally reliable constituency group. In recent days Senator Menendez of New Jersey and even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have created some space between themselves and Obama by reiterating their traditional support for Israel. So far, there is no evidence that the Obama team (including Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell) is backing off its settlement mantra.

As cautious as Obama has been in refusing to support the Iranians on the streets, he has been quite abrupt in his willingness to cast aside decades of ties between the U.S. and Israel. Israeli Jews have caught on that the emperor is not wearing any clothes. Will American Jews wake up as well?

Will American Jews wake up? Not a chance. The Democratic Party is the temple where non-orthodox American Jews worship.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular of Failure

Mark Steyn on “the man who won’t duck the tough decisions”:

…President Obama, in that rhetorical tic that’s already become a bit of a bore, likes to position himself as a man who won’t duck the tough decisions. So, faced with a U.S. automobile industry that so overcompensates its workers it can’t make a car for a price anybody’s willing to pay for it, the president handed over control to the very unions whose demands are principally responsible for that irreconcilable arithmetic. Presented with a similar situation 30 years ago, Mrs. Thatcher took on the unions and, eventually, destroyed their power. That was a tough decision. Telling your political allies they can now go on overpaying themselves in perpetuity is a piece of cake.

When the going gets tough, the tough get bailed out. Your car business operates on a failed business model? Don’t worry, the taxpayers will prop that failed business model up forever. You went bananas on your credit card and can’t pay it back? Don’t worry, we’ll pass a law to make it the bank’s fault. Your once golden state has decayed into such a corrupt racket of government cronyism that the remaining revenue generators are fleeing your borders faster than you can raise taxes on them? Relax, we’re lining up a federal bailout for you, too. Your unreadable newspaper has just woken up from its 96-page Obama Full Color Inaugural Souvenir bender to discover that its advertising revenue has collapsed with the real-estate market and GM dealerships? Hey, lighten up, Senator Kerry’s already been pleading your case in the Senate. Is it really so hard to picture President Obama calling the mayor next spring to assure him he has no plans to move the New York Times out of New York?

This is now a land that rewards failure — at the personal, corporate, and state level. And, as conservatives well know, if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. If you reward it as lavishly as the Obama administration’s doing it, you’ll get the Radio City Christmas Spectacular of Failure, on ice and with full supporting orchestra.

There is a phrase you hear a lot in Canada, Britain, and Europe to describe the collection of positive “rights” (to “free” health care, unemployment benefits, subsidized public transit) to which the citizens of Western democracies have become addicted: the “social safety net.” It always struck me as an odd term: Obviously, it derives from the circus. But life isn’t really a high-wire act, is it? Or at least it didn’t use to be. If you put the average chap — or even Barack Obama or Barney Frank — in spangled leotard and tights and on a unicycle and shove him out across the wire, he’s likely to fall off. But put the average chap in spangled leotard and tights out into the world and tell him to get a job, find accommodation, raise a family, take responsibility, and he can do it. Or he used to be able to, until the government decided he needed a “safety net.”

When did human life become impossible without a “safety net”? My neighbor’s family came to my corner of New Hampshire in the winter of 1767–68 when her great-great-great-whatever dragged his huge millstones up the frozen river from Connecticut to build the first gristmill on a swift-running brook in the middle of uncleared forest in a four-year-old township comprising a dozen families. And he did it without first applying for a federal business development grant. No big deal. Her family’s nothing special, my town’s nothing special: That’s the point. It was routine — in a pre–“safety net” society.

In his new book, Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift, Paul Rahe writes, “Human dignity is bound up with taking responsibility for conducting one’s own affairs.” But today the state cocoons “one’s own affairs” so thoroughly as to remove almost all responsibility from modern life, and much of human dignity with it. And, if personal consequences have been all but abolished, societal consequences are harder to dodge. Sometimes great powers decline slowly, almost imperceptibly, as Britain did for much of the 20th century. Sometimes it’s more sudden and convulsive. Obama is attempting Euro-statism, but, unlike Europe, without the counterweight of America to preserve some approximate relationship to reality. Which is to say I do not think this decline will be genteel, for America or the world.

Caroline Glick on the New York Times’ reporting on Iran which support’s Orwell’s observation that there are some ideas so stupid only an intellectual could believe them:

“Could there be something to all the talk of an Obama effect, after all? A stealth effect, perhaps?”

So asked Helene Cooper, the New York Times’ diplomatic correspondent in a news analysis of the massive anti-regime protests in Iran published in Sunday’s Times.

It took US President Barack Obama eight days to issue a clear statement of support for the millions of pro-freedom demonstrators throughout Iran risking their lives to oppose the tyranny of the mullahs. And after eight days of vacillating and hedging his bets and so effectively supporting Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei against the multitudes rallying in the streets, Obama’s much awaited statement was not particularly forceful.

He offered no American support of any kind for the protesters. Indeed, it is hard to say that in making his statement, the American president was speaking primarily as an American.

He warned the likes of Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose goons are currently under orders to beat, arrest and murder protesters, that “the world is watching… If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.”

According to several prominent Western bloggers with direct ties to the protesters, Obama’s statement left the Iranians underwhelmed and angry.

But as Cooper sees it, the protesters owe their ability to oppose the regime that just stole their votes and has trampled their basic human rights for 30 years to Obama and the so-called “Obama effect.” Offering no evidence for her thesis, and ignoring a public record filled with evidence to the contrary, Cooper claims that it is due to Obama’s willingness to accept the legitimacy of Iran’s clerical tyranny that the protesters feel emboldened to oppose their regime. If it hadn’t been for Obama, and his embrace of appeasement as his central guiding principle for contending with the likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, as far as Cooper is concerned, the people on the streets would never have come out to protest.

By this thinking, America is so despised by the Iranians that the only way they will make a move against their regime is if they believe that America is allied with their regime. So by this line of reasoning, the only way the US can lead is by negative example – which the world in its wisdom will reject.

While Cooper’s analysis gives no evidence that Obama’s policies toward the ayatollahs had any impact on the tumultuous events now sweeping through Iran, it does make clear that the so-called Obama effect is a real phenomenon. It just isn’t the phenomenon she claims it is.

THE REAL OBAMA effect on world affairs relates to the US media’s unprecedented willingness to abandon the basic responsibilities of a free press in favor of acting as propagandists for the president. From Cooper – who pretends that Obama’s unreciprocated open hand to the mullahs is what empowered the protesters – to Newsweek editor Evan Thomas who referred to Obama earlier this month as a “sort of God,” without a hint of irony, the US media have mobilized to serve the needs of the president.

It is hard to think of an example in US history in which the media organs of the world’s most important democracy so openly sacrificed the most basic responsibilities of news gatherers to act as shills for the chief executive. Franklin Delano Roosevelt enjoyed adoring media attention, but he also faced media pressures that compelled him to take actions he did not favor. The same was the case with John F. Kennedy.

Today the mainstream US media exert no such pressures on Obama. Earlier this month NBC’s nightly news anchorman Brian Williams bowed to Obama when he bade him good night at the White House.

On Wednesday ABC News will devote an entire day of programming to advancing Obama’s controversial plan to nationalize health care. Its two prime time news shows will be broadcast from White House. Good Morning America will feature an interview with Obama, and ABC’s other three flagship shows will dedicate special programming to his health care reform program.

On the other hand, ABC has refused Republican requests for a right of reply to Obama’s positions. The network has also refused to sell commercial advertising time to Republicans and other Obama opponents to offer their dissenting opinions to his plans.

This media behavior has been noted by the likes of Fox News and the handful of other US news outlets that are not in the tank for Obama. But the repercussions of the Obama effect on US politics and world affairs have been largely ignored…

The Left's Latest Hate Israel Campaign

If you want to counter the left’s latest hate Israel campaign, buy Israeli products at stores like Trader Joe’s.

A Couple of Jokes You Won't Hear on Letterman

Jim Treacher suggests an hilarious gag involving one of Barry’s many half-brothers and Barry’s two underage children:

…I realize I’m just an inbred backwoods moron who can’t abide by any criticism of Sarah Palin whatsoever, but is this really the precedent we want to set for our politicians and their families?

After all, Samson Obama, one of the president’s many half-brothers, isn’t allowed in the UK because he tried to assault a 13-year-old girl. Are we to impose the Letterman standard there? Is it okay to make a joke like this?

“How come the First Family never invites Uncle Samson to visit? Because whenever Sasha and Malia sit on his knee, it takes six Secret Service guys to pry them off!”

Or how about this?

“Joe Biden keeps saying he’s not really sure where all that stimulus money is going. In other news, Ashley Biden’s coke dealer just bought Luxembourg.”…

And Victor Davis Hanson asks:

…What it is about Sarah Palin that drives the Left insane? Her charisma? Her authentic blue-collar roots? The accent? Todd? The pregnancies? The ability to galvanize crowds. Joe Biden tried to fake his working class origins, but Palin seems to live, not romanticize, the life of the middle strata, so would not the Left appreciate someone from the non-elite?

I suggest two reasons for the fury of the aristocratic Left. One was Palin’s stance on abortion. In the elite feminist mind, the perfect storm would be for a 40ish career woman, on the upswing of her cursus honorum, getting pregnant and, then, heaven forbid, delivering the child with full fore-knowledge of chromosomal abnormality. Or having her 17-year old come to full term with a child, unmarried, and without money?

…For most upscale, educated liberals, a daughter’s future career is ruined by pregnancy, and abortion is often the answer. Second, Todd Palin, the Palin accent, the Wasilla connection, the whole notion of Alaska, all this conjured up the elite liberal notion of “trailer trash”-and we all know from Obama’s clingers speech, that the white Christian working class is the last group in America that can be caricatured and slurred with impunity. To the liberal urban elite, poor “whites” are those responsible for racism and other sins associated with the dominant culture, and thus by association taint the white aristocracy unfairly.

…I received a lot of angry mail about a recent prediction that the Obama administration would acerbate not diminish racial tensions, by its addiction to identity politics and the constant invocation of racial difference. Nothing since his ascension has disabused me of that observation. Obama himself, in unusual fashion, has given a number of speeches abroad emphasizing his African heritage, his middle name Hussein, and his father’s Muslim’s connection.

We have heard the Attorney General call his countrymen “cowards” for not talking more about racial identity. We have heard our Supreme Court nominee state on repeated occasions that a Latina is intrinsically better at being a judge than a white male counterpart. Now Rev. Wright has reemerged to suggest that Obama will no longer meet with him because “Them Jews ain’t going to let him talk to me ….” (a new book about Obama suggests he and Wright met in secret during the campaign after the Wright racist outbursts).

…Note as well, that Wright, in his anti-Semitic diatribe, employs the now customary straw men “they”, which we’ve become well accustomed to. (I note here that what was most disturbing about the Letterman Palin jokes and his “apology” was the audience laughing at his crudity-reminiscent of the standing ovations in the Trinity congregation that met Wright’s profanity, racist outburst, and damning of the United States. This country has a long way to go.)

This racialism will continue. Why? Because Obama discovered long ago that racial identification brings as many dividends as does the content of one’s character or achievement. It is a force multiplier and foolishly left untapped. I fear more, not less, of this, as the tab for Obama’s charge-it economy comes due at about the same time dubious players abroad conclude that serial apologies amount to a green light for adventurism. When his popularity dives, I think critics will be seen as biased and prejudicial.

What was ironic about all Wright’s accusations of Obama’s Jewish hypnosis, was that in just the first six months of his administration Obama has proven to be the most anti-Israeli President since the founding of the Jewish state. Wright should be delighted not disappointed; perhaps his unhappiness is the inability to bask publicly in White House visits, rather than ideological discord…

While we’re on the subject of Democratic double standards, James Piereson revisits a classic:

The New York Times carries a short editorial today titled “A Clear Case for Impeachment.” The editorial concerns a federal district judge from Texas, Samuel Kent, whom the Times reports “has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for lying to officials who were investigating sexual harrassment charges against him.” The Times goes on to say that he should be impeached immediately by the Congress because, as the editorial states, “He has violated his oath to uphold the law.” In the view of the paper’s editorial board, a lawyer or judge who undermines the system of justice deserves no sympathy.

That is all well stated, except for one nagging doubt: Isn’t this the same crime of which Bill Clinton was accused? President Clinton, as readers will recall, was impeached by the House of Representatives for lying under oath to a grand jury in a sexual harrassment case that had been filed against him. The President, as he even acknowledged, was guilty of perjury. In that case, the Times took the view that it was not Clinton who was in the wrong but rather his accusers who had gone over the line in turning a private matter into a public crisis. President Clinton, the paper said, was standing up to the “right wing” against attempts to politicize the justice system. There was no hand-wringing about “undermining the system of justice” in that case within the precincts of the paper’s editorial offices. That was, in their view, a no-holds-barred political struggle between the sainted Democrats and the evil Republicans.

The Times has by this point established such a clear partisan paper trail that their editorialists cannot even stand up for a simple principle without contradicting themselves with the various double standards they have established. Is it any wonder why some Republicans are quietly cheering the countdown to the paper’s bankruptcy?

Eloquent or Merely Clean and Articulate?

Is Barry “eloquent” (having or exercising the power of fluent, forceful, and appropriate speech) or merely “articulate” (using language easily and fluently)? This might seem an odd question given that even Barry’s few critics praise his supposed eloquence.

I side with Joe Biden who, when he was running against Barry, described him as “clean and articulate.” Biden’s description was a gaffe of the kind defined by Michael Kinsley, that is, when a politician mistakenly utters what he really believes. Astute observers noted that the statement had racial (if not racist) implications, whereby any black man who doesn’t wear clothes 10 sizes too large, who doesn’t wear his pants south of his butt, and who can speak reasonably grammatical sentences is given a lot of extra credit that would not be bestowed upon a white guy with similar qualities.

However, we now know that “clean and articulate” is insufficient praise when it comes to Barry. I don’t remember anyone ever describing Bill Clinton (our first black president) as eloquent. His only memorable words were, “I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky” and “It depends on what the meaning of is is.” No, Clinton was merely articulate.

In the old days, you might be considered eloquent, if you said memorable words of wisdom and wit. Lincoln, Churchill, Martin Luther King spring to mind because their words were not only fluent, but also forceful, wise, and memorable. Obama may yet enter the pantheon of the eloquent, but so far he has not uttered a single noteworthy line.

Obama’s technique is the rhetoric of moral equivalence, a trick beloved of left wingers the world over. In Obama’s race speech (praised by some as the greatest speech written by an American since the Gettysburg Address), delivered in response to the discovery that he had attended, for over a decade, a church headed by a black nationalist supporter of Louis Farrakhan, Obama equated his minister’s hateful ideas with his own grandmother’s reaction to an aggressive black panhandler who had harassed her on the bus. Since his inauguration, he has serially apologized for a myriad of America’s sins while equating them with those of the terrorist states of the so-called Muslim World.

I suppose the rhetoric of moral equivalence passes for eloquence among liberals, but the assumption of Barry’s eloquence is really about the need of whites (whatever their political opinions) to overpraise blacks. Before Obama, Jesse Jackson was considered an orator of Ciceronian caliber despite the fact that his only rhetorical technique was to recite dumb rhymes similar to those found in rap “music.” No matter, he was brilliant and charismatic too.

There are lots of “clean, articulate” white guys in politics today – Evan Bayh, John Thune, and Michael Bennett come to mind- but it is highly unlikely that they will be elected president. As I said during the campaign, the only thing that distinguished Barry from his Democratic competitors is his race – which both his supporters and critics confuse with eloquence.

He Forgot Me

Andre Aciman wonders why Barry forgot “him” in his Cairo speech:

…for all the president’s talk of “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world” and shared “principles of justice and progress,” neither he nor anyone around him, and certainly no one in the audience, bothered to notice one small detail missing from the speech: he forgot me.

The president never said a word about me. Or, for that matter, about any of the other 800,000 or so Jews born in the Middle East who fled the Arab and Muslim world or who were summarily expelled for being Jewish in the 20th century. With all his references to the history of Islam and to its (questionable) “proud tradition of tolerance” of other faiths, Mr. Obama never said anything about those Jews whose ancestors had been living in Arab lands long before the advent of Islam but were its first victims once rampant nationalism swept over the Arab world.

Nor did he bother to mention that with this flight and expulsion, Jewish assets were — let’s call it by its proper name — looted. Mr. Obama never mentioned the belongings I still own in Egypt and will never recover. My mother’s house, my father’s factory, our life in Egypt, our friends, our books, our cars, my bicycle. We are, each one of us, not just defined by the arrangement of protein molecules in our cells, but also by the things we call our own. Take away our things and something in us dies. Losing his wealth, his home, the life he had built, killed my father. He didn’t die right away; it took four decades of exile to finish him off.

Mr. Obama had harsh things to say to the Arab world about its treatment of women. And he said much about America’s debt to Islam. But he failed to remind the Egyptians in his audience that until 50 years ago a strong and vibrant Jewish community thrived in their midst. Or that many of Egypt’s finest hospitals and other institutions were founded and financed by Jews. It is a shame that he did not remind the Egyptians in the audience of this, because, in most cases — and especially among those younger than 50 — their memory banks have been conveniently expunged of deadweight and guilt. They have no recollections of Jews.

In Alexandria, my birthplace and my home, all streets bearing Jewish names have been renamed. A few years ago, the Library of Alexandria put on display an Arabic translation of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” perhaps the most anti-Semitic piece of prose ever written. Today, for the record, there are perhaps four Jews left in Alexandria.

When the last Jew dies, the temples and religious artifacts and books that were the property of what was once probably the wealthiest Jewish community on the Mediterranean will go to the Egyptian government — not to me, or to my children, or to any of the numberless descendants of Egyptian Jews…

"I Am A Dream"

Canadian columnist David Warren on Barry’s “Cairo disaster”:

…As I have argued previously, [Obama] is not an honest man but, instead, a demagogue. He plays games with reality in the course of weaving his rhetorical spells. To be clear: he is no Hitler, no Mussolini, with some vision of national or racial glory, cynically manipulating the crowds to purposes that are ultimately violent. Far from that.

Nor is he a Trudeau, precisely, with an inner contempt for the people he is pledged to serve, and his own agenda to put past them. I do not even think Obama suffers from the vanity of Trudeau, who may actually have imagined himself to be some sort of “philosopher king.”

Obama’s is a different, more insidious vanity. He acknowledges his rhetorical gift as a gift, but imagines the solutions to problems coalesce of their own accord in his presence. He is President Orpheus, the “poet king,” transforming nature with his music. The German weekly, Die Zeit, expressed this perfectly in a headline: “I am a dream!”

It is the failure to acknowledge hard realities that makes Obama dangerous. As a wise Texan of my acquaintance put it, “he is attempting to model himself on Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. But, it’s with a twist. He sees himself as the Great Mediator — the One who will step into every conflict around the globe, bring to bear his superior intelligence and teleprompted eloquence, and leave the parties in a warm embrace.”

Another old friend, the errant “neocon” David Frum, explained what is shocking in that Cairo speech: to find an American president no longer mediating domestic American conflicts, but rather, those between his own country and some of her deadliest enemies. This may be presented as “reaching out” but, in practice, it leaves his own side unchampioned, unrepresented, and in the end, undefended.

Moreover, he is playing this game with a child’s understanding of the history and the stakes.

The Cairo speech is loaded with historical howlers. Other writers have explicated his misconceptions about Israel, and Hamas; about the American history in Iran; even his ridiculous notions about America’s earliest engagements with Islam. With short space, I leave that to them, but will draw attention to two grand statements, so fatuous as to beggar belief:

“As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar University — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment.”

And: “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition.”

No serious “student of history” could possibly have made either remark. The former is just bosh; the latter is incredibly offensive to western Christendom, quite apart from the laughable anachronism.

It would be wrong to demean the real achievements of Islamic civilization to advance western vanities. But also the reverse: it is wrong to demean the real achievements of Christendom, in the service of Islamic vanities even more absurd. And to do the latter, after presenting oneself as a Christian, is to sell out one’s whole society and being.

We may accommodate the playful, but the U.S. president was not being playful here. Or rather, he was playing with fire, as I know from some familiarity with the audience he was addressing. He was playing to the crowd, and in this case, playing to the tragic and self-destructive modern Arab propensity to blame every Arab problem on the machinations of outsiders.

By playing to that, Obama is selling out not only the democrats in the Arab and Islamic world, but every force and influence for self-betterment.

His English-speaking audience might note all the counter-balancing rhetoric about microloans and development and a woman’s choices. But for each of those, he announced some U.S. aid program that put the onus upon outsiders, again.

The speech did not merely miss an opportunity to speak the truth plainly. It sabotaged every effort to speak the truth plainly, to the darkest tyrannical forces in the Islamic world. It sold out America, it sold out the West, and it sold out the Muslims, too.

Peter Wehner comes to the same conclusion:

…A third important thing to take away from [Evan] Thomas’s comments is why Obama is so beloved by some reporters and commentators. Reagan, Thomas says, was “all about America.” But Obama is “above that now.” He is “standing above the country” he was elected to represent. And in doing so, we’re not just “parochial, we’re not just chauvinistic, we’re not just provincial.”

That is an extremely and probably unintentionally revealing set of comments by Mr. Thomas. For the president to speak on behalf of his nation as Reagan spoke up for America is viewed as unsophisticated, narrow-minded, and bigoted. Obama, in the eyes of his supporters, has transcended such things. According to the logic of Thomas, Obama deserves to be praised precisely because he does not, in the first instance, represent America. At his best, Obama is a “citizen of the world,” standing “above the country.”

Some of us have a different, quainter notion of such things. We believe America is, in the words of Lincoln, an “inestimable jewel” — an imperfect and extraordinary nation that deserves our affection and deepest attachment. We believe, as Lincoln and the founders did, that the fate of this republic is inextricably tied to the principles upon which it was founded. We actually do not want our President to “stand above the country.” And we do not believe it is particularly sophisticated to disparage as chauvinistic and provincial those who speak up for her. Nor, I might add, do we view Obama as “sort of God,” or anything close to God. The fact that Evan Thomas and those who view the world as he does, do see Obama in supernatural terms tells you everything you need to know, and probably nothing you didn’t know.

Islamoschmoozing

Mark Steyn on Barry’s “peace in our time” speech:

…Once Obama moved on from the more generalized Islamoschmoozing to the details, the subtext – the absence of American will – became explicit. He used the cover of multilateralism and moral equivalence to communicate, consistently, American weakness: “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.” Perhaps by “no single nation” he means the “global community” should pick and choose, which means the U.N. Security Council, which means the Big Five, which means that Russia and China will pursue their own murky interests and that, in the absence of American leadership, Britain and France will reach their accommodations with a nuclear Iran, a nuclear North Korea and any other psychostate minded to join them.

On the other hand, a “single nation” certainly has the right to tell another nation anything it wants if that nation happens to be the Zionist Entity: As Hillary Clinton just instructed Israel regarding its West Bank communities, there has to be “a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions.” No “natural growth”? You mean, if you and the missus have a kid, you’ve got to talk gran’ma into moving out? To Tel Aviv, or Brooklyn or wherever? At a stroke, the administration has endorsed “the Muslim world’s” view of those non-Muslims who happen to find themselves within what it regards as lands belonging to Islam: the Jewish and Christian communities are free to stand still or shrink, but not to grow. Would Obama be comfortable mandating “no natural growth” to Israel’s million-and-a-half Muslims? No. But the administration has embraced “the Muslim world’s” commitment to one-way multiculturalism, whereby Islam expands in the West but Christianity and Judaism shrivel remorselessly in the Middle East.

And so it goes. Like General Motors, America is “too big to fail.” So it won’t, not immediately. It will linger on in a twilight existence, sclerotic and ineffectual, declining unto a kind of societal dementia, unable to keep pace with what’s happening and with an ever more tenuous grip on its own past, but able on occasion to throw out impressive words albeit strung together without much meaning: empower, peace, justice, prosperity – just to take one windy gust from the president’s Cairo speech.

There’s better phrase-making in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, in a coinage of Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Committee on Foreign Relations. The president emeritus is a sober, judicious paragon of torpidly conventional wisdom. Nevertheless, musing on American decline, he writes, “The country’s economy, infrastructure, public schools and political system have been allowed to deteriorate. The result has been diminished economic strength, a less-vital democracy, and a mediocrity of spirit.” That last is the one to watch: A great power can survive a lot of things, but not “a mediocrity of spirit.” A wealthy nation living on the accumulated cultural capital of a glorious past can dodge its rendezvous with fate, but only for a while. That sound you heard in Cairo is the tingy ping of a hollow superpower.

And the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick gets specific:

…Obama’s so-called hard truths for the Islamic world included statements about the need to fight so-called extremists; give equal rights to women; provide freedom of religion; and foster democracy. Unfortunately, all of his statements on these issues were nothing more than abstract, theoretical declarations devoid of policy prescriptions.

He spoke of the need to fight Islamic terrorists without mentioning that their intellectual, political and monetary foundations and support come from the very mosques, politicians and regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt that Obama extols as moderate and responsible.

He spoke of the need to grant equality to women without making mention of common Islamic practices like so-called honor killings, and female genital mutilation. He ignored the fact that throughout the lands of Islam women are denied basic legal and human rights. And then he qualified his statement by mendaciously claiming that women in the US similarly suffer from an equality deficit. In so discussing this issue, Obama sent the message that he couldn’t care less about the plight of women in the Islamic world.

So, too, Obama spoke about the need for religious freedom but ignored Saudi Arabian religious apartheid. He talked about the blessings of democracy but ignored the problems of tyranny.

In short, Obama’s “straight talk” to the Arab world, which began with his disingenuous claim that like America, Islam is committed to “justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,” was consciously and fundamentally fraudulent. And this fraud was advanced to facilitate his goal of placing the Islamic world on equal moral footing with the free world.

In a like manner, Obama’s tough “truths” about Israel were marked by factual and moral dishonesty in the service of political ends.

On the surface, Obama seemed to scold the Muslim world for its all-pervasive Holocaust denial and craven Jew hatred. By asserting that Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are wrong, he seemed to be upholding his earlier claim that America’s ties to Israel are “unbreakable.”

Unfortunately, a careful study of his statements shows that Obama was actually accepting the Arab view that Israel is a foreign – and therefore unjustifiable – intruder in the Arab world. Indeed, far from attacking their rejection of Israel, Obama legitimized it.

The basic Arab argument against Israel is that the only reason Israel was established was to sooth the guilty consciences of Europeans who were embarrassed about the Holocaust. By their telling, the Jews have no legal, historic or moral rights to the Land of Israel.

This argument is completely false. The international community recognized the legal, historic and moral rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel long before anyone had ever heard of Adolf Hitler. In 1922, the League of Nations mandated the “reconstitution” – not the creation – of the Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel in its historic borders on both sides of the Jordan River.

But in his self-described exercise in truth telling, Obama ignored this basic truth in favor of the Arab lie. He gave credence to this lie by stating wrongly that “the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history.”

He then explicitly tied Israel’s establishment to the Holocaust by moving to a self-serving history lesson about the genocide of European Jewry.

Even worse than his willful blindness to the historic, legal and moral justifications for Israel’s rebirth, was Obama’s characterization of Israel itself. Obama blithely, falsely and obnoxiously compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to white American slave owners’ treatment of their black slaves. He similarly cast Palestinian terrorists in the same morally pure category as slaves. Perhaps most repulsively, Obama elevated Palestinian terrorism to the moral heights of slave rebellions and the US civil rights movement by referring to it by its Arab euphemism, “resistance.”

But as disappointing and frankly obscene as Obama’s rhetoric was, the policies he outlined were much worse. While prattling about how Islam and America are two sides of the same coin, Obama managed to spell out two clear policies. First, he announced that he will compel Israel to completely end all building for Jews in Judea, Samaria, and eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem. Second, he said that he will strive to convince Iran to substitute its nuclear weapons program with a nuclear energy program.

Obama argued that the first policy will facilitate peace and the second policy will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Upon reflection, however, it is clear that neither of his policies can possibly achieve his stated aims. Indeed, their inability to accomplish the ends he claims he has adopted them to advance is so obvious, that it is worth considering what his actual rationale for adopting them may be.

The administration’s policy toward Jewish building in Israel’s heartland and capital city expose a massive level of hostility toward Israel. Not only does it fly in the face of explicit US commitments to Israel undertaken by the Bush administration, it contradicts a longstanding agreement between successive Israeli and American governments not to embarrass each other.

Moreover, the fact that the administration cannot stop attacking Israel about Jewish construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but has nothing to say about Hizbullah’s projected democratic takeover of Lebanon next week, Hamas’s genocidal political platform, Fatah’s involvement in terrorism, or North Korean ties to Iran and Syria, has egregious consequences for the prospects for peace in the region.

As Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas made clear in his interview last week with The Washington Post, in light of the administration’s hostility toward Israel, the Palestinian Authority no longer feels it is necessary to make any concessions whatsoever to Israel. It needn’t accept Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. It needn’t minimize in any way its demand that Israel commit demographic suicide by accepting millions of foreign, hostile Arabs as full citizens. And it needn’t curtail its territorial demand that Israel contract to within indefensible borders.

In short, by attacking Israel and claiming that Israel is responsible for the absence of peace, the administration is encouraging the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole to continue to reject Israel and to refuse to make peace with the Jewish state.

The Netanyahu government reportedly fears that Obama and his advisers have made such an issue of settlements because they seek to overthrow Israel’s government and replace it with the more pliable Kadima party. Government sources note that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel played a central role in destabilizing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s first government in 1999, when he served as an adviser to then president Bill Clinton. They also note that Emmanuel is currently working with leftist Israelis and American Jews associated with Kadima and the Democratic Party to discredit the government.

While there is little reason to doubt that the Obama administration would prefer a leftist government in Jerusalem, it is unlikely that the White House is attacking Israel primarily to advance this aim. This is first of all the case because today there is little danger that Netanyahu’s coalition partners will abandon him.

Moreover, the Americans have no reason to believe that prospects for a peace deal would improve with a leftist government at the helm in Jerusalem. After all, despite its best efforts, the Kadima government was unable to make peace with the Palestinians, as was the Labor government before it. What the Palestinians have shown consistently since the failed 2000 Camp David summit is that there is no deal that Israel can offer them that they are willing to accept.

So if the aim of the administration in attacking Israel is neither to foster peace nor to bring down the Netanyahu government, what can explain its behavior?

The only reasonable explanation is that the administration is baiting Israel because it wishes to abandon the Jewish state as an ally in favor of warmer ties with the Arabs. It has chosen to attack Israel on the issue of Jewish construction because it believes that by concentrating on this issue, it will minimize the political price it will be forced to pay at home for jettisoning America’s alliance with Israel. By claiming that he is only pressuring Israel to enable a peaceful “two-state solution,” Obama assumes that he will be able to maintain his support base among American Jews who will overlook the underlying hostility his “pro-peace” stance papers over.

Obama’s policy toward Iran is a logical complement of his policy toward Israel. Just as there is no chance that he will bring Middle East peace closer by attacking Israel, so he will not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by offering the mullahs nuclear energy. The deal Obama is now proposing has been on the table since 2003, when Iran’s nuclear program was first exposed. Over the past six years, the Iranians have repeatedly rejected it. Indeed, just last week they again announced that they reject it.

Here, too, to understand the president’s actual goal it is necessary to search for the answers closer to home. Since Obama’s policy has no chance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is apparent that he has come to terms with the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran. In light of this, the most rational explanation for his policy of engagement is that he wishes to avoid being blamed when Iran emerges as a nuclear power in the coming months.

In reckoning with the Obama administration, it is imperative that the Netanyahu government and the public alike understand the true goals of its current policies. Happily, consistent polling data show that the overwhelming majority of Israelis realize that the White House is deeply hostile toward Israel. The data also show that the public approves of Netanyahu’s handling of our relations with Washington.

Moving forward, the government must sustain this public awareness and support. By his words as well as by his deeds, not only has Obama shown that he is not a friend of Israel. He has shown that there is nothing that Israel can do to make him change his mind.

Everyone's Best Friend

Jonathan Tobin on Barry’s moral equivalence speech in Egypt:

…To be Barack Obama is to be, as he says, a person who can see all issues from all sides and defend American interests while at the same time being everyone’s best friend. He sees himself as someone who can achieve Olympian detachment. Speaking of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he says: “If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth.”

But there is more than one type of blindness. The search for the truth is not merely an exercise in which all grievances are considered the same. To assert the truth of the Holocaust is appropriate — if unfortunately necessary when addressing an Arab audience — as is calling on the Palestinians to “abandon violence” and to cease “shooting rockets at sleeping children” or blowing up old women on buses.

But the problem with this conflict is not that both sides won’t listen to each other or give peace a chance. That might have been a good point to make prior to the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993 when Israel recognized the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations and began the process of handing over large portions of the area reserved by the League of Nations for the creation of a Jewish National Home for the creation of a Palestinian equivalent. But Israel offered these same Palestinians a state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza as well as part of Jerusalem in 2000 and again in negotiations conducted by the government of Ehud Olmert just last year. So, the problem is not that the Israelis don’t want the two state solution that Obama endorsed in Cairo. Rather, it is, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in Washington only a week ago, that the Palestinians aren’t interested in negotiating with Israel.

Even more obnoxious than this refusal to see that the truth about the conflict isn’t to be found through an even-handed “plague on both your houses” approach is his comparison of the Palestinians’ plight to that of African-Americans in the United States before the civil rights era. Israelis have not enslaved Palestinians. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians rests on the latter’s unwillingness to come to terms with the former’s existence. The plight of Palestinians in Gaza is terrible but it is a direct result of their own decision to choose war over peace, not a lack of understanding on the part of the Jews. Going to the Middle East while ostentatiously avoiding Israel and picking a fight with its leadership sends a message that will resonate throughout the Arab world. His signal that America is now an impartial broker rather than Israel’s ally can only encourage a Palestinian people that continue to reject peace.

Another disappointment was his treatment of the threat from Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. Again, he re-stated the history of our problems with Iran in a context of moral equivalence. While he has stated elsewhere — and promised as much during his run for office — that he will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear capability, such plain talk was absent in Cairo. Nowhere did he say plainly that Iran must stop its nuclear program or call upon other nations to join the effort to restrain Tehran. That was a major blunder and a missed opportunity to rally the Arab world that fears Iranian nukes as much as the Israelis, to step up on the issue before it is too late…

Power Line weighs in:

…The biggest problem with Obama’s speech, I think, is that it was not what it purported to be: the beginning of an honest dialogue between the United States and Muslim countries. Obama promised “to speak the truth as best I can,” but in fact he repeatedly went easy on the truth, preferring instead to pander to his audience. What went unacknowledged is the deep dysfunction of most of the Arab world. Repeatedly, Obama seemed to imply that minor issues in the West are on a par with far more significant and deep-seated failures of Arab countries. The overall effect of the speech was more to give Muslims a warm feeling about their history and cultures than to shed an honest light on the reasons for current tensions between those nations and the West.

This lack of candor was most notable in Obama’s discussion of Israel and the Palestinians. I say this not so much because I disagree with some of what Obama said about that issue, but rather because of the prominence he gave the subject. In his recitation of the “specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together,” Israel came second, after terrorism. Implicitly, Obama ratified the idea that giving the Palestinians a state is the key to peace in the region, and an important element in resolving the problems of Arab countries generally.

But this is incorrect. If Obama really were to speak truth to the Muslim world, he would say that Israel ranks nowhere on the list of Muslim nations’ problems. He would say that the nation of Israel could disappear tomorrow and it would make zero difference in the lives of his Egyptian audience. He would say that the Arabs’ unhealthy obsession with Israel and tolerance of anti-Semitism have been obstacles to the development of Arab countries into healthy societies. He would say that the Palestinians could have had a state long ago if they had wanted one, but they preferred their role as victims–the point of the spear that is intended to drive Jews out of the Middle East.

Of course, if Obama really told the truth to his international Muslim audience, his popularity with that group would plummet. Hence his preference for the same sort of triangulating, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand political speech that he gives so often in the U.S. It’s easy to understand why Obama panders to American audiences–it got him elected President. It is not so clear why presenting overseas Muslims with a sugar-coated view of reality serves the national interests of the United States.