‘That’s enough. That — that’s a show of disrespect to me.”
That was Barack Obama, a couple of weeks back, explaining why he was casting the Reverend Jeremiah Wright into outer darkness. It’s one thing to wallow in “adolescent grandiosity” (as Scott Johnson of “Powerline” called it) when it’s a family dispute between you and your pastor of 20 years. It’s quite another to do so when it’s the 60th-anniversary celebrations of one of America’s closest allies.
Last week, President Bush was in Israel and gave a speech to the Knesset. Its perspective was summed up by his closing anecdote — a departing British officer in May 1948 handing the iron bar to the Zion Gate to a trembling rabbi and telling him it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to one of the gates to the Old City of Jerusalem was in the hands of a Jew. In other words, it was a big-picture speech, referencing the Holocaust, the pogroms, Masada — and the challenges that lie ahead. Senator Obama was not mentioned in the text. No Democrat was mentioned, save for President Truman, in the context of his recognition of the new State of Israel when it was a mere 11 minutes old.
Nonetheless, Barack Obama decided that the president’s speech was really about him, and he didn’t care for it. He didn’t put it quite as bluntly as he did with the Reverend Wright, but the message was the same: “That’s enough. That’s a show of disrespect to me.” And, taking their cue from the soon-to-be nominee’s weirdly petty narcissism, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Joe Biden, and co. piled on to deplore Bush’s outrageous, unacceptable, unpresidential, outrageously unacceptable, and unacceptably unpresidential behavior.
Honestly. What a bunch of self-absorbed ninnies. Here’s what the president said: “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”
It says something for Democrat touchiness that the minute a guy makes a generalized observation about folks who appease terrorists and dictators the Dems assume: Hey, they’re talking about me. Actually, he wasn’t — or, to be more precise, he wasn’t talking only about you. Yes, there are plenty of Democrats who are in favor of negotiating with our enemies, and a few Republicans, too — President Bush’s pal James Baker, whose Iraq Study Group was full of proposals to barter with Iran and Syria and everybody else. But that general line is also taken by at least three of Tony Blair’s former cabinet ministers and his senior policy adviser, and by the leader of Canada’s New Democratic party, and by a whole bunch of bigshot Europeans. It’s not a Democrat-election policy, it’s an entire worldview. Even Barack Obama can’t be so vain as to think his fly-me-to-[insert name of enemy here] concept is an original idea.
Increasingly, the Western world has attitudes rather than policies. It’s one thing to talk as a means to an end. But these days, for most midlevel powers, talks are the end, talks without end. Because that’s what civilized nations like doing — chit-chatting, shooting the breeze, having tea and crumpets, talking talking talking. Uncivilized nations like torturing dissidents, killing civilians, bombing villages, doing doing doing. It’s easier to get the doers to pass themselves off as talkers then to get the talkers to rouse themselves to do anything. And, as the Iranians understand, talks provide a splendid cover for getting on with anything you want to do. If, say, you want to get on with your nuclear program relatively undisturbed, the easiest way to do it is to enter years of endless talks with the Europeans over said nuclear program. That’s why that Hamas honcho endorsed Obama: They know he’s their best shot at getting a European foreign minister installed as president of the United States.
Mo Mowlam was Britain’s Northern Ireland secretary and oversaw the process by which the IRA’s Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness became Ministers of a Crown they decline to recognize. By 2004, she was calling for Osama bin Laden to be invited to “the negotiating table,” having concluded he was no different from Adams: Stern fellow, lots of blood on his hands, but no sense getting on your high horse about all that; let’s find out what he wants and give him part of it. In his 2002 letter to the United States, bin Laden has a lot of grievances, from America’s refusal to implement sharia to Jew-controlled usury to the lack of punishment for “President Clinton’s immoral acts.” Like Barack Obama’s pastor, bin Laden shares the view that AIDS is a “Satanic American invention.” Obviously, there are items on the agenda that the free world can never concede on — “President Clinton’s immoral acts” — but who’s to say most of the rest isn’t worth chewing over?
This will be the fault line in the post-Bush war debate over the next few years. Are the political ambitions of the broader jihad totalitarian, genocidal, millenarian — in a word, nuts? Or are they negotiable? President Bush knows where he stands. Just before the words that Barack Obama took umbrage at, he said: “There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It’s natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemnly responsibility to take these words seriously.”
Here are some words of Hussein Massawi, the former leader of Hezbollah: “We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you.”
Are his actions consistent with those words? Amazingly so. So too are those of Hezbollah’s patrons in Tehran.
President Reagan talked with the Soviets while pushing ahead with the deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe. He spoke softly — after getting himself a bigger stick. Sen. Obama is proposing to reward a man who pledges to wipe Israel off the map with a presidential photo-op to which he will bring not even a twig. No wonder he’s so twitchy about it.
© 2008 Mark Steyn