A November wish, &c.


By now, you may well have seen, or heard about, an article by Peter Baker in the New York Times. It was about Obama as commander-in-chief. And it contained a quotation made famous by Charles Krauthammer, in a column of his. For the Times article, go here; for the K’hammer column, go here.

That quotation comes from an adviser to Obama, and it goes like this: “Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics. [Obama] would not risk losing the moderate to centrist Democrats in the middle of health insurance reform and he viewed that legislation as the make-or-break legislation for his administration.”

Chew on those words a bit: Our Afghan policy was focused as much as anything on domestic politics. No Republican foe said that — a presidential adviser did. Why doesn’t the world stop until this is sorted out? Do you know what I mean? Why doesn’t the Staten Island Ferry stop running, Halladay stop pitching, and water stop pouring over Niagara?

It’s just one line in a newspaper, I know, but . . . holy Moses, what a statement, from such a source.

So, there was the guy who drank in Al Gore and took hostages at the Discovery Channel building, threatening to kill them and to blow the joint up. He was shot by the police before he could kill anyone.

A little Memory Lane — dark alley. I remember distinctly when Rabin was assassinated in Israel: The Left said that the Likud party had “created the climate” — that was the buzzphrase, “created the climate” — in which this could take place.

Some months before that, McVeigh and his helpers had blown up the Oklahoma City building. President Clinton strongly suggested that Rush Limbaugh, and conservative talk radio, was responsible. I thought this was just about as despicable a thing as a president could do. Do you remember his commencement address at Michigan State University? Vile.

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans. I wrote a piece called “All the Uglier: What Katrina whipped up.” It was about the reaction to the disaster, especially the blaming of George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and anyone else who ever looked askance at the Sierra Club. I recently re-read that piece. I am not easily shocked, I promise you, but I was shocked all over again at what people said, and got away with: RFK Jr., for one. Anyway, that piece is here.

Did I have a point, in this little impromptu? Oh, yeah. When people commit horrid crimes, or natural disaster strikes, we ought to be a little careful — sober — about holding politicians we dislike responsible. As far as I’m aware, Gore has not received the treatment meted out to Netanyahu, Rush, and other conservatives.

Although I do remember some snarky remarks that the Unabomber’s manifesto resembled Gore’s book Earth in the Balance. There were side-by-side comparisons and so on.

Did you hear Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, reacting to Glenn Beck’s rally on the Mall? He said, “It’s a free country. I wish it weren’t, but it’s a free country, and you gotta respect that freedom.”

I thought of President Obama in China last year, talking to students. One of them asked him — this is almost a heartbreaking question — “Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” An easy question — right? — especially for the leader of the country that stands for freedom in the world. Our president began, “Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone.” Uh-huh. Then he continued, “I should be honest: As president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time.”

Eventually, he got around to a defense of freedom, in this unfree country, China — took a while, though.

Weird times. Weird high-office holders.

You have heard Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC. He said, “In the BBC I joined 30 years ago, there was, in much of current affairs, in terms of people’s personal politics, which were quite vocal, a massive bias to the left.” He claimed, of course, that things are different now. But bless him for acknowledging the massive bias of the past!

Would that there were an American figure — our equivalent of Mark Thompson, or a near-equivalent — who would do something like the same. Now, if Thompson could get the BBC’s Middle East coverage to be as fair as, say, al-Jazeera’s, that would be icing on the cake. (Seriously speaking, I know a media expert, who studies these things minutely, who says that al-Jazeera’s coverage is considerably fairer than the Beeb’s.)

Did you get a load of Karel De Gucht? Name sounds Flemish, right? Right you are. He is Belgium’s former foreign minister, and he is now the European Union’s trade commissioner. Here’s our guy on Belgian radio:

Don’t underestimate the opinion . . . of the average Jew outside Israel. There is indeed a belief — it’s difficult to describe it otherwise — among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.

Yeah, I know, that’s such a drag. You know what other people think they’re always right, in my experience? EU officials. Very hard to have conversations with.

Our guy continued, “Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best-organized lobby. You shouldn’t underestimate the grip it has on American politics — no matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats.”

For sure, that lobby always sends a shiver up my spine, too. And I recall the words of Archbishop Tutu, that great moral leader: “People are scared in this country [America] to say wrong is wrong, because the Jewish lobby is powerful — very powerful.” Shiver shiver shiver.

I think that the likes of Karel De Gucht and Desmond Tutu can’t conceive of a country where the people actually support Israel — where they admire and even love it. Therefore, if the country’s government is pro-Israel, it must be the result of a nefarious lobby, thwarting the popular will.

Never before, until this era, have people said that a Jewish minority is frustrating the majority will and destiny. Never before have people said that a Jewish tail is wagging a great national dog. Right? And never before has this assertion been a prelude to strikes on Jews. Right?


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