Guide to the Perplexed
Reflections on human rights and peacemaking in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and politics beyond
28 September 2008
24 September 2008
24 September 2008 - Town of Chelm endorses Obama
Israelis don't trust these people to run their own country, so why would Americans trust them to chose the next president?
Among Israelis, McCain is widely favored over Obama. But the Obama campaign is planning to have "real, live" Israelis call Jewish voters in swing states to reassure them that "he is not a Muslim."
Why does the Obama campaign assume Jews a) believe Obama is a Muslim; b) care? It's his policies people are worried about.
23 September 2008
23 September 2008 - Did Obama oppose the anti-Ahmadinejad rally itself?
Conventional wisdom has it that the Democrats pulled the plug on Hillary Clinton's participation in yesterday's anti-Ahmadinejad rally because of the potential spectacle of Clinton sharing a podium with Republican phenomenon Sarah Palin, who has replaced her as the standard-bearer for women's hopes in the U.S. elections. The party and the Obama campaign then insisted that Palin herself be disinvited; it's only fair, etc.
The truth may be even starker. The Obama campaign may have opposed the rally simply because Obama supports direct talks with Ahmadinejad, and might actually look favorably on Ahmadinejad's arrival in New York, at least if he means what he says about diplomatic engagement. The probable fear in the Obama campaign was that Palin would use the occasion to attack Obama's position (her undelivered speech reveals she would have stuck to the issues.)
Some protesters did, indeed, take that opportunity, and reminded America that Obama favors talks with a man who has pledged to eliminate Israel. From Ha'aretz:
"One protester held up a sign reading 'JEWS AGAINST OBAMA & AHMADINEJAD." Another, identified by the Forward newspaper as Bill Rubin, stood apart from the crowd waving an Israeli flag and a sign that said, "Dems hate Sarah Palin more than they hate Islamo-fascists.'"
Tough language. But the problem here is not the opinions of the demonstrators. It is the tactics of Barack Obama and the Democrats, who preferred to suppress Palin's right to speak--as the New York Times quashed John McCain's right of reply--rather than opposing Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations.
23 September 2008 - Obama comfortable with Palestinian control over Old City
"Let me be clear....Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
And then the next day:
"Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties."
Obama blamed "poor phrasing" for the first line, and said what he objected to was a physical division of the city "by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967."
But that revealed nothing about where he believes the boundary of the city ought to be.
He added, later:
"And I think that it is smart for us to -- to work through a system in which everybody has access to the extraordinary religious sites in Old Jerusalem but that Israel has a legitimate claim on that city."
What is that city? And what will Israel's claim consist of?
The Obama campaign has left these questions unanswered.
But one possible inference is that Obama would be comfortable with an arrangement that removes the Old City from Israeli control, so long as Jews are guaranteed access to holy sites and Israel's "legitimate claim" is recognized.
And who will be the custodians of those guarantees? Who will be responsible for honoring that claim? Can the Israelis trust the Palestinians to do so?
In plain language, it seems Obama favors an agreement in which Israel cedes sovereignty over the Old City to the Palestinians in exchange for mere promises of safe passage and religious tolerance.
In Israeli terms, that's a non-starter.
22 September 2008
22 September 2008 - Lefty Jews roped into fear-mongering campaign
Obama strategist David Axelrod has been accused of masterminding a "sockpuppet" campaign against Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, using a faked "grassroots" information effort to spread vicious lies about her. At the very least, it is clear from breaking reports that the smear campaign against her has been orchestrated by a professional public relations agency.
We hear lots of complaining by Obama that he is the target of a "misinformation" campaign. His surrogates repeat the claim in conference calls with Jewish leaders and activists. Obama himself shouts the claim at old ladies asking uncomfortable questions.
(How about that debate over "temperament" now, Senator? John McCain gets interrupted by protesters all the time but has never reacted like that.)
The claim about a "misinformation" campaign against Obama has less to do with reality and more to do with narcissistic paranoia and a fear of facing certain true but uncomfortable facts about Obama's life and candidacy. Some of the "smears" Obama complains about, such as the fact that he voted to allow babies that survived abortion to be killed, are simply true.
It is Obama's own campaign--or, at least, his close supporters--that is engaged in a real smear effort. And many Jewish voters--desperate to find a reason to avoid breaking the psychological barrier and actually voting Republican on the merits are participating.
Friends and relatives have e-mailed me demonstrably false accusations about Sarah Palin, such as the lie that she banned books from a library. It is clear that they are sending these emails to many people and that they have been circulated widely already. This is part of an attempt, conscious or unconscious, to frighten Jews by resorting to old fears of Republicans--particularly religious Christian voters.
For example, Ha'aretz, the left-wing Israeli daily, has been running the graphic below for quite some time:
Burston's article appeared a week ago, yet is still on the front page of a newspaper whose website is updated daily. Interestingly, what Burston sees as "truly frightening" about Sarah Palin is that she seemed unable to identify the "Bush doctrine" in an interview with Charlie Gibson, but Burston himself does not identify what that doctrine is (and Gibson got it wrong, too).
I'm not saying that Ha'aretz is part of a smear campaign, but it is the main news source for lefty Jews on Israel (and lefty Jews in Israel) and it reflects what is going on in the lefty Jewish community. No one is making rational comparisons between Palin and Joe Biden (or Barack Obama, for that matter). Instead, they're running around hysterically proclaiming that she is some kind of terrifying conservative monster from the primeval Pat Buchanan past.
Whenever I challenge my Obama-leaning friends and family on this point, or point out Palin's enthusiastic support for Israel (in contrast to Obama's dubious associations and clumsy coverup pandering), the response is always: "The courts! The courts! Roe v. Wade!" This even comes from Jewish Americans who live in Israel or are well past childbearing age and will not be affected by any change in American abortion laws whatsoever (unlikely in any case, given that nothing happened on that score in the eight years of the Bush presidency).
This indicates to me that the campaign against Palin among lefty Jews is not based on who she is or what she offers but on fears about the Republicans that are at least twenty years out of date. And the flipside of this "sockpuppet" effort is the outright intimidation against Jewish organizations being practiced by the Democrat leadership. I am still waiting to hear a word of protest about Palin being compared to a Nazi by the Obama campaign, about the arm-twisting to get Palin uninvited from today's anti-Ahmedinejad protest, and about the smear campaign allegedly being masterminded by that paragon of Jewish political activists, David Axelrod.
22 September 2008 - Palin: What I would have said
Today's address by Sarah Palin, in the New York Sun.
What she would have said, if the Democrats hadn't bullied the Jewish community into canceling her appearance.
20 September 2008
21 September 2008 - Why I got a haircut and became a Republican
(Image: me, circa 1997)
I used to be a left-wing Democrat. I was an intern for Carol Moseley-Braun. I studied with Cornel West. I voted for John Kerry and Al Gore--and in 1996 I even wrote in Ralph Nader rather than vote for Clinton, who was too centrist for me.
Then I grew up.
I got tired of the same stale ideas, the radical nostalgia, the suppression of debate in left-wing circles. I didn't agree with conservatives about much (yet), but I liked the fact that they asked real questions and had real exchanges of ideas.
I went to South Africa on a scholarship, delighted at the opportunity to see many of my left-wing ideas being put into practice. I ended up staying for nearly seven. What I saw and learned there changed my perspective dramatically.
I began to realize that governments could never provide the prosperity and opportunity that free markets do. (As bad as the current financial crisis is, it would be far worse, and far more difficult to fix, in a state-dominated economy.)
I saw that the greatest challenge to world peace was not the greed and apathy of the west, but the determination of thugs, criminals and dictators to fulfill their own lust and fantasies regardless of the cost to the rest of humanity.
When I returned to America I tried to recover my old footing in the Democratic party. But when I said that I thought the U.S. could rescue its mission in Iraq by sending more troops, I was told by my fellow Democrats that I was crazy.
I was initially attracted to Barack Obama--I voted for him, as an Illinois resident, in 2004--but began to have my doubts after learning more about his reluctance to make tough, principled decisions, and his defeatist Iraq policy.
McCain had always been a favorite of mine, even in my lefty days. I admired his ability to stand up to his own party--which suited me just fine, as a Democrat. But now I found renewed respect for him as one of the few backers of the "surge."
As the 2008 election rolled on, and Obama came out not only against victory in Iraq but against free trade, I found myself more and more firmly in the McCain camp. And I've been proud to volunteer to help get him and Sarah Palin elected.
McCain is a true leader, a man who will do what is right even when it is unpopular. He stands by his principles even in the toughest of times. He takes responsibility for his mistakes, and learns from them. He is a great American.
I am sure that there are many other potential McCain supporters out there among Democrats and independents. To them I say: if you truly care about liberalism, in its freest, most robust form, then McCain's America is where you want to be.
(cross-posted at RedState)
20 September 2008 - Democrats threaten American Jews, and leaders capitulate
It was bad enough to learn that the American Jewish organizations that are organizing a protest next week in New York against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad agreed to dis-invite Republican vice-presidential candidate (and Alaska governor) Sarah Palin.
They did so only because New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who had been previously scheduled to speak at the event, suddenly pulled out in order to spare the Obama campaign the possible embarrassment of America's top two political women sharing the stage.
At first, I thought this revealed a lack of political courage. If one political party pulls out of a rally (which was organized around a cause that should concern all Americans), there's no reason to placate it by dumping the other. It's not up to Jewish organizations to prove their bipartisanship; rather, it's up to the two parties to compete for Jewish votes by proving their dedication to Jewish concerns.
Now there are reports that the Democrats threatened to withdraw the tax-exempt status of Jewish organizations if they allowed Palin to attend the rally. I don't see any denials out there yet, so the story would seem to be true. If so, it's a disgrace.
The Jewish organizations should have told the Democrat leadership to take a hike. But they didn't--and that's what happens when you allow any political party (particularly one that is inclined, now more than ever, to view itself as morally superior to its opponents) to take your support for granted.
The Obama campaign complains about "smears," but the only real scare stories I've seen out there in the Jewish community are those that warn people of all the terrible things the Republicans will do if McCain wins. The loyalty of American Jews to the Democrat establishment is neither appreciated nor reciprocated.
There are signs that more Jewish voters are waking up to that reality. The Jewish vote doesn't count for much, but it may be an important bloc in a few swing states--and who knows? it may even swing New York this time around. Regardless of who wins in November, this is a painful and important lesson for Jewish supporters of the Democratic party, which has told them: "You are expendable."
And who's behind it all? Why, the new "J Street" lobby, supported by Obama funder George Soros. J Street was supposed to be the dovish alternative to AIPAC but now turns out to be little more than a Democrat front and has actually taken pride in disrupting plans for an anti-Ahmedinejad protest.
17 September 2008
18 September 2008 - Columnist: "I hope Palin shoots herself"
In tomorrow's Cape Times, South African columnist John Scott has published one of the more extreme anti-Palin screeds I've seen thus far.
Scott is a reasonable fellow whose columns are both insightful and enjoyable. But he has clearly succumbed to the global media hysteria over Palin, which is amplified in South Africa by the left-wing consensus in the press and the virtual silence about all things McCain.
The article is entitled: "Sarah Palin reminds me of other scary women I've known." After regurgitating several debunked Palin smears, and recounting "unhappy encounters" he's had "with women of similar ilk," Scott concludes:
"I just hope Sarah Palin shoots herself, too, in the foot."
Now, to shoot oneself "in the foot" is a common rhetorical expression. But Scott uses it immediately after referring to John Wiley, a politician who actually did shoot himself and died from his wounds.
Scott's inflamed rhetoric is both uncharacteristic and unacceptable. He should immediately apologize.
Write to the Cape Times at: firstname.lastname@example.org
17 September 2008 - Harvard Law School in the tank for Obama
It should come as no surprise that many at Obama's alma mater are backing the Illinois Senator in his race for the presidency. What is a little irritating is the way campus media at Harvard Law School have become an echo chamber for pro-Obama opinions.
Consider the law school's home page today and yesterday:
The three stories in the "news" section feature op-eds published elsewhere in the national media, each of which endorses the Obama/Biden ticket:
So what? you might ask. Well, these op-eds are delivered every day to thousands of inboxes at the law school, thanks to a service called News@Law, which circulates articles written by Harvard law professors or in which Harvard law professors are quoted. The political op-eds are circulated, too.
There's nothing inherently wrong with this, except for the obvious imbalance of opinions. (Hey, I like these professors; I just disagree with them on Obama.) Which means that supporters of the McCain/Palin ticket here (like me) are using the delete button with greater frequency. Until November 5th, that is, when we'll no doubt be subjected to a slew of op-eds mourning an Obama defeat and wondering about its implications.
16 September 2008
16 September 2008 - Anti-Israel professor leaves Harvard
Prof. J. Lorand Matory, who tried to create special protection for anti-Israel speech after hounding former university president Larry Summers out of office for his politically incorrect remarks, has announced that he is leaving Harvard for Duke.
(Earlier post: "Matory can't take the heat")
He launched a few parting shots at Harvard, claiming it is hostile to black academics and complaining that it wouldn't hire his wife. He also complained that he is underpaid: “We don’t have the money to take vacations.”
15 September 2008
12 September 2008
12 September 2008 - A challenge to Jewish American leaders
When are you going to stand up for Sarah Palin against unfair smears, the way you did for Barack Obama?
And why has it taken you so long?
12 September 2008 - Sarah Palin stands up for Israel
In last night's interview with Charlie Gibson, Sarah Palin was asked whether the U.S. should allow Israel to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"We cannot second-guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself."
Fast-forward to 5:28:
11 September 2008
11 September 2008 - Pigs in Lipstick: Obama's Earmarks (re-post)
"Obama promises change: 'We'll put government data online. We'll use technology to shine a light on spending.' So we decided to take Obama up on his offer. We went to Illinois to see how he is bringing home the bacon.
"This is the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2006, Senator Obama requested a 1.6 million dollar earmark for a project called the Livestock Genome Sequencing Initiative. It’s pork DNA. Now that’s taking pork to a whole new level."
11 September 2008 - 9/11: In Memoriam
This image is not from 9/11; it is from a New York Times photo essay on the massive Northeast power failure two years later. But it is an appropriate symbol, I believe, of the shadow that 9/11 still casts over all our lives.
May the names of the victims never be forgotten, and may the values of freedom endure forever.