Barack Obama supports the “idea” of Israel… and of the US [Karl]
Two passages from Barack Obama’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic reveal more about Obama’s thinking than one might notice upon a first reading:
JG: Do you think that justice is still on IsraelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side?
BO: I think that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the Jewish people could still experience. I know that that there are those who would argue that in some ways America has become a safe refuge for the Jewish people, but if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gone through the Holocaust, then that does not offer the same sense of confidence and security as the idea that the Jewish people can take care of themselves no matter what happens. That makes it a fundamentally just idea.
That does not mean that I would agree with every action of the state of Israel, because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a government and it has politicians, and as a politician myself I am deeply mindful that we are imperfect creatures and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always act with justice uppermost on our minds. But the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world.
Obama likes the concept alright, but not so much the execution.Ã‚Â What is missing from this eggheaded answer (and some of his other answers) is a recognition that Israel is — and has always been — in an existential struggle with most of its neighbors, who do not recognize Israel’s right to exist and would like to see the nation wiped from the face of the Earth.
However, Obama does touch on the existential issue in another answer:
The notion that a vibrant, successful society with incredible economic growth and incredible cultural vitality is still plagued by this notion that this could all end at any moment — you know, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what that feels like, but I can use my imagination to understand it. I would not want to raise my children in those circumstances. I want to make sure that the people of Israel, when they kiss their kids and put them on that bus, feel at least no more existential dread than any parent does whenever their kids leave their sight.
Many people might conclude that Obama’s imagination leaves something to be desired on that topic, givenÃ‚Â his disdain for more hawkish positionsÃ‚Â in The Atlantic interview, the longtime spiritual adviser who declared Israel a Ã¢â‚¬Å“dirty word,Ã¢â‚¬Â his coterie of advisers urging a more “even-handed” approach to the Israeli conflict, and his oft-stated desire to unconditionally meet with with Iranian Pres. Ahmadinejad –Ã‚Â who is known for denying the Holocaust and wanting to wipe IsraelÃ‚Â off the map.Ã‚Â In the interview, Obama pretends to be baffled at the skepticism of others, which is either a dangerous blind spot on his part or an attempt to con his audience.
Yet the way Obama thinks of Israel is not all that different from the way he views the United States.Ã‚Â Consider his remarks on the campaign trail in North Carolina:
My patriotism is rooted in the fact that my story, Michelle’s story, is not possible anywhere else on Earth. That the American dream, despite this country’s imperfections, has always been there… That there are ladders of opportunity that all of us can climb. That we’re all created equal. That we’re all endowed with certain inalienable rights — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness… That we’re willing to shed blood for those liberties, we’re willing to speak out for those liberties…Ã‚Â That we can make this country more just and more equal and more prosperous and more unified. That’s why I love this country. That’s why you love this country.
That is of courseÃ‚Â inspiring and perhaps otherwiseÃ‚Â unremarkable by itself.Ã‚Â However, Obama made these comments primarily as a response to the controversies over his wife’s comment that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country,” his association with the Rev. JeremiahÃ‚Â Wright, who compared the 9/11 attacks to “chickens coming home to roost,”Ã‚Â his remarks about “bitter” small-town voters clinging to God and guns, and even the otherwise trivial issue of whether he wears a flag lapel pin.Ã‚Â In this context, it is worth revisiting his defense to this seemingly trivial complaint:
The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.
I decided I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wear that pin on my chest. Instead IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m gonnaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.
Obama later amplified this explanation:
Somebody noticed I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wearing a flag lapel pin and I told folks, well you know what? I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t probably worn that pin in a very long time. I wore it right after 9/11. But after a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic. Not voting to provide veterans with resources that they need. Not voting to make sure that disability payments were coming out on time.
My attitude is that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m less concerned about what youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re wearing on your lapel than whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in your heart. And you show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who served. You show your patriotism by being true to our values and our ideals and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what we have to lead with is our values and our ideals.
ThusÃ‚Â (similar to his purported support for Israel), Obama’s patriotism is grounded in a belief in American values and ideals — as he sees them.Ã‚Â Conversely, those who disagree with Obama on issues of national security or veterans’ benefits are not true patriots to him.Ã‚Â Indeed, we can see this theme clearly in a separate defense Obama offered regarding the flag pin:Ã‚Â
A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans’ benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?
That is a debate I am very happy to have. We’ll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism.
Interestingly,Ã‚Â Obama seems to have been content to abandon the flag as a symbol of those ideals to those who he does not consider true patriots (evenÃ‚Â as his ubiquitous camapign logo features red and white stripes against a blue “O”).Ã‚Â It thus should surprise no one that he might considerÃ‚Â William Ayers,Ã‚Â who danced on the flag (not to mention bombed the Pentagon) as “mainstream.”Ã‚Â After all, Ayers was just speaking out on issues of national security… with explosives.Ã‚Â
That issues of body armor, military training, or veterans’ benefitsÃ‚Â might actually be debatable among reasonable people apparently does not occur to Obama.Ã‚Â Nor does it seem that Obama is aware of FDR’sÃ‚Â warrantless wiretapping during wartimeÃ‚Â (not surprising, given his general ignorance of WWII history).Ã‚Â Or it is possible that Obama excuses FDR because
FDR was a Democrat the US faced an existential threat in WWII, whereas Obama believes the 9/11 attacks were usedÃ‚Â to “scare up votes instead of as a way to bring the country together” and demands an end to the “mind-set that got us into war” in Iraq.Ã‚Â Such comments suggest that — as with Israel — Obama does not believe that terrorism by Islamic extremists poses a serious threat to America, even as he acknowledges on a purely clinical, intellectual level, that Israel is a nation where people fear putting their children on the bus each day.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Someone might want to ask Obama what prevents similar attacks here.
Accordingly, Obama’s support for America sometimes seems to extend no further than his perception of its ideals and his issue positions.Ã‚Â This is an entirely conventional view of people onÃ‚Â the Left, particularly among the New Left.Ã‚Â Indeed, a recent Pew poll showed that:
Democrats are nearly equally divided over the statement that “we should be willing to fight for our country whether it is right or wrong” (50% agree and 46% disagree). However, 52% of Democrats who have attended college disagree with this view, compared with 37% of non-college Democrats. There are no significant age differences on this question.
Given that Obama’s strength has been among Democrats who have attended college, while Clinton has been strong with non-college Democrats, it is fair toÃ‚Â infer that Obama tends to attract those who disagree that that “we should be willing to fight for our country whether it is right or wrong,” which seems entirely consistent with Obama’s view of patriotism (and of Israeli nationalism).Ã‚Â As Michael Barone would put it, it is the difference between Jacksonians and academics.Ã‚Â For the New Left, the idea that disagreements overÃ‚Â foreign policy stop at the water’s edgeÃ‚Â died inÃ‚Â Vietnam.
The New Left view can be usefully contrasted with a metaphor Rick Moran has used to describe liberal patriotism:
I think it is apparent that some on the right love America in a different way than some on the left. Think of the rightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s love of country as that of a young man for a hot young woman. The passion of such love brooks no criticism and in their eyes, the woman can do nothing wrong. They place the woman on a pedestal and fail to see any flaws in her beauty, only perfection.On the other hand, love of country by many liberals is more intellectualized Ã¢â‚¬â€œ perhaps the kind of love we might feel for a wife of many years. The white hot passion may be gone and her flaws might drive you up a wall at times. And it is difficult not to dwell on her imperfections But there is still a deep, abiding affection that allows you to love her despite the many blemishes and defects they see.
It isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that most on the left love America any less than those on the right. They simply see a different entity Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a tainted but beloved object that has gotten better with age.
Alternatively, it could be argued that some on the left (esp. the New Left) treat America like the girlfriend theyÃ‚Â hold to a standard of perfection and always find wanting, complaining about her to their friends in her presence.Ã‚Â And that some on the rightÃ‚Â love America like their wives, acknowledgingÃ‚Â her past and present flaws, while recognizing that those flawsÃ‚Â might not be corrected overnight, orÃ‚Â even in his lifetime.Ã‚Â And that most American husbands do not find it useful to publicly take sides in an argument against their wives, even when they might privately do so.Ã‚Â Or to dismissÃ‚Â their wives’ concern thatÃ‚Â there may be an intruder in the house.
It is wonderful — not to mention politically smart — that Obama has started talking more about the greatness of America and its ideals.Ã‚Â However, should he be elected president, he will be elected president of the nation asÃ‚Â it is, not of its ideals.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Obama claims he wants to bring Americans together.Ã‚Â If he truly does, he will have to accept that he cannot cavalierly dismiss the views of his fellow citizens anymore than he can dismiss the views of his wife.Ã‚Â He might want to ask the last Democrat to be elected president about that.