Who is the real Barack Obama, the far-left community organizer and Hyde Park politician, or the post-partisan moderate who inspired at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and campaigned for the presidency in 2008? That will be a central question for historians of Obama’s presidency. To conservatives the answer has been evident for some time.
Yet as Elliott Abrams points out, Democrats have insisted for eight years, in the face of apparent evidence to the contrary, that the president is a firm and enthusiastic supporter of the Jewish state. Jonah makes the case that Obama’s abstention on yesterday’s U.N. resolution condemning Israel could have had no practical political motive. The only plausible remaining explanations are “accumulated frustration” over Israel’s settlement policy, pure personal pique at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for past differences, or a broader sympathy with the Palestinian view of the conflict in the Middle East. So Obama’s attitude toward Israel is an important test case for the larger challenge of assessing the president’s convictions.
Five years ago, in a Corner post titled Pro-Palestinian-in-Chief, I made the case that Obama’s long and still poorly-known history of support for the most radical and committed Palestinian activists in the United States held the truth about his convictions on this issue. Years of committed activism and personal friendship are a lot tougher to fake than the pro-Israel policy positioning Obama adopted after his breakthrough at the 2004 Democratic Convention gave him a shot at the presidency.
Historians are likely to argue for some time over whether Obama’s early political stance was largely a pragmatic concession to his hard-left Hyde Park constituency, or an authentic outlook that he brought to bear more cautiously, yet steadily and with increasing force, as his presidency moved into its second term and past his final mid-term election.
Obama’s decision to abstain from yesterday’s U.N. condemnation of Israel is going to be a real problem for advocates of the “moderate Obama” hypothesis. If you go back and read “Pro-Palestinian-in-Chief,” you’ll see what will still be for many a shocking and mostly unknown account of Obama’s pre-presidential record on this issue. In light of that history, the Obama administration’s action yesterday at the United Nations was entirely predictable, and in fact was predicted.
Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org