Times Hysterics

by Elliott Abrams

The New York Times, hysterical in its criticism of Israel and its prime minister, and increasingly desperate for any deal at all about Iran’s nuclear program, uses an editorial today to call Netanyahu’s opposition to the recent near-deal “hysterical.” 

Now, we know from several accounts that one of the issues French foreign minister Laurent Fabius raised with John Kerry was the Arak reactor — Iran’s plutonium route to a bomb. Even the Times admits that only a deal that “curbs the plutonium program” is acceptable, though that language — “curbs” rather than “ends” — will be welcome in Tehran. But think of it: The American delegation was willing to accept a deal that did not curb the plutonium program. Iran was free to continue its construction. The French had to take Kerry aside and persuade him to add such a provision. Were our negotiators, led by Wendy Sherman, asleep at the switch? Do they lack an understanding of the details? Would she like to send Kerry to Tehran, as she once upon a time urged Bill Clinton to go to Pyongyang (and successfully persuaded Madeline Albright to do so)? Or were they under instructions to put forth terms Iran would be certain to accept, unlike the pesky French who appear to have wanted a defensible and tough deal?

Once upon a time, when the New York Times was a more serious newspaper, it had an editor named John Vinocur — metropolitan editor, bureau chief in France and then Germany, and then editor of the International Herald Tribune. Today this old Timesman writes in the Wall Street Journal the following:

What’s novel here is that in Europe, doubts about America’s wisdom, strength and resolve are increasingly focused on the person of the president. Beyond the espionage, think of Mr. Obama’s hesitations on Iran and turnabouts concerning Syria-or his role in lengthening the U.S. budget shutdown, or in providing America with a new but crippled national health program.

These days, and to varying degrees, the governments of France, Britain and Germany regard Mr. Obama as a problem. No longer expressed only in private, the notion represents a decline in the reflexive acceptance and respect that had cushioned European attitudes about his historic presidency. In Germany, Die Welt, a consistently pro-American newspaper, regretted things were now at a point where it appeared the U.S. was trying to confirm every prejudice against it. This was happening, the paper’s publisher wrote in a front-page editorial last month, ‘under an American president who was once longed for in Europe like the Messiah, and whom Old Europeans finally saw as one-a president who didn’t arrive wearing Texas cowboy boots, and instead tucked his copy of Kant under his pillow. But that was fiction.’

None of this will ever be found in the pages of the Times these days, for it is not “news that’s fit to print” in the Times Obama-centric world. Its editorial pages remain one of the few places on earth where those visions about Obama still appear in editors’ dreams. And if you present an alternative vision, you are denounced as “hysterical,” like the Israeli prime minister. 

I recall a wonderful conversation with Ariel Sharon when he was prime minister of Israel. The New York Times had denounced him as hysterical, a warmonger, aggressive, and so on, and he mentioned it when we spoke. He shook his head and said “you can’t defend a country according to what the New York Times will write.” Netanyahu gets that, clearly. One can only wish for a president of the United States who gets it too.


The Corner

The one and only.