Thursday, September 3, 2015

What to look for from the presidential candidates

Sar Shalom

As supporters of Israel, we want to know what sorts of policies the next president will adopt regarding the Middle East. However, questions to the candidates about what approach they would take if elected invariably fail to yield answers that are useful to make such an assessment. Instead, the candidates tend to make anodyne responses to such questions such as, "We have to support Israel" or "We have to support peace." Such answers provide no indication of what how that candidate would evaluate an Israeli response to a Hamas rocket campaign if elected.

There is, however, something which would give a clue to such issues. Instead of asking the candidates what their perceptions of the issue are, ask them who they turn to in order to understand the issues. For instance, someone whose understanding of human rights comes from Paul Berman will likely have a different take on whether or not Israel's response to Hamas rockets is disproportionate than someone whose understanding comes from Ken Roth. Someone whose understanding of Middle East history comes from Bernard Lewis will have a different view of the boundary between Jewish and Arab rights than someone whose understanding comes from Rashid Khalidi. Someone whose ideas of Jewish and Arab interests come from Alan Dershowitz and Khaled Abu Toameh would have a different view of what the obstacles are to a peace agreement than someone whose views come from Jeremy Ben-Ami and Hanan Ashrawi.

The reality is that once someone decides which set of figures would provide the best understanding, the decision has been made as to the frame in which to understand the issue. Once the frame has been decided, the policy to adopt, should one gain the power to implement it, has been decided as well. Is there anyone asking the candidates who fills their understanding of the region?


  1. So now we know that Hillary would turn to Max Blumenthal. Or Huma.

    1. It's going to take quite awhile for Democrats to re-earn my trust.

      I suspect that it will take longer than I will be dangling around this planet, but we shall see.

    2. Hillary's association with Blumenthal is definitely problematic. What I would like to see is for every reporter from any Jewish media outlet to ask her about it.

      That said, the Clinton family connection with Blumenthal predates Max's positions on Israel. It's more that Max would be a privileged lobbyist, not something to ignore, than that the Blumenthals would be setting the frame for her evaluation of the Middle East.

  2. Sorry, this is the US of A, We don't tolerate substance in our politics.

  3. Part of the Queen Hillary Email Circus this week was the discovery that she gets most of her information and views about Israel from J-Street, Sydney Blumenthal and importantly, his son Max Blumenthal who is openly a Jew hating antisemite calling for the violent annihilation of Israel. But Hillary has a 30+ year track record of being in love with the PLO, Yasser and Suha Arafat. Once famously Queen Hillary toddled off to Ramallah or somewhere and went on camera with Suha, both of them their $800 Hermes hijab scarves flowing in the wind while Suha screamed into the camera for a quarter hour uninterrupted about how all Jews are evil should be exterminated etc etc etc IN ENGLISH while Hillarius just stood there smiling. When Suha was done everyone kissed cheeks, gave presents to the BBC or whatever and went on with their day.

    The complaint is always "Well there's nothing to suggest that Obama, Hillary, fill in the democrat name here" is actually antisemitic..."

    ...To which I respond, 'Well, Oswald Mosley wasn't actually a member of the Nazi party, but does it matter?" See a person is what they appear to be in public life. If given the choice of being anything and associating with anyone you choose to hang out with Nazis, terrorists, Glenn Greenwald types, Holocaust Deniers and worse then that's the 'brand' stamped on your forehead. That's the thing you own.

    It will be interesting to see how this unravels because as of yesterday the Democrats OWN Iran. This is their baby. This is what they're going to have to excuse, explain and defend from here on in. They have hung 100% of their credibility on the random violent insanity of the Iranian regime and the IRGC and everything they say and do on a day to day basis. If Iran decides to test a nuke on the border with Iraq tomorrow, that's on the Democrats. If Iran decides to drop chemical weapons on Syria or on American 'advisers' fighting ISIS that's on the Democrats. If Iran decides to publicly announce they've been in all pragmatic ways a nuclear state since mid 2012 and Obama knew it, that's something the Democrats will have to stand up and swear allegiance to. They hanging their futures on a collection of insane unpredictable despot psychopaths bent on genocide. That will be THE brand slapped on the Democrats and at the DNC.

    The only question you have to ask yourself is, will the idiot Americans who return them all to office 98% of the time no matter what they do, continue to do so. Because if they do, then we deserve ringside seats for when the first nuke goes off on the White House lawn. I'll have a kosher hotdog wagon for the show. You bring the lawn chairs.

    1. Trudy,

      "The complaint is always...

      ...That's the thing you own."


    2. Trudy!

      You never fail to slay me!

      "Because if they do, then we deserve ringside seats for when the first nuke goes off on the White House lawn. I'll have a kosher hotdog wagon for the show. You bring the lawn chairs."

      I'll bring the George Dickel No. 12.

      But the core of your point is that the Democrats now "own Iran."

      Maybe, but that's up to the American public, now, isn't it? That's a collective decision that will be heavily influenced by the MSM.

      I wouldn't place my bet, yet. You're sitting on Jack-Queen in the hole.

  4. I have to tell you, man, I love the concision of your arguments.

    That is the question to ask, isn't it? Who informs your opinion?... on whatever the issue is. If you were to ask me 10 years ago I might have brought up the name Chomsky. Today I am far more likely to reference Benny Morris Version II.

    The thing of it is, though, few - if any - of the candidates in the field could even begin to answer that question.

    Neither Hillary Clinton, nor Donald Trump, nor Jeb Bush, could even begin to have a discussion on, what?, the historiography of the Arab-Israel conflict?

    Paul Berman is brilliant and I have nothing but admiration for that guy, but do you suppose anyone currently running for the presidency would recognize his name? I tell ya what. Let's find out which of the candidates have even heard of Paul Berman and that's the one that I will vote for!

    But, in truth, why did so many of us vote for Barack Obama in his first term when we were well aware of his associations and influences?

    It seems to me that the Jewish Left is in need of considerable soul-searching... which is actually kind-of ironic because that is precisely what Obama demanded of the Israeli Right, if you will recall.

    1. Mike,
      I'm very glad to hear you are no longer a Chomskyite!

    2. When you ask why so many voted for Obama, are you referring to the primaries or the general?

    3. I'm not sure that's the right question. Leftism has in its core the inherent tendency to act against one's own self interest. Be it Israel or taxes or welfare or labor laws or costs in general or how the schools are run, what the nature of free speech is, the entire universe of the scope of control of authority and so on.

      So why would this particular case be different. It is against Jews' interest to support Obama's policies. On their face. That's the truth of it. But acting against, whether it's framed pseudo altruistically as 'for the greater good' or it's framed in social warrior terms as 'for someone ELSE'S greater good', none of the rationales for any of these political categories obtains any difference from one to the other.

      People who under the burden of California taxation see this every day. Gov Brown is now proposing another $65 road tax + a 10% hike in the gas tax. Which would then make driving in CA the most expensive in the country far and away. Rich people don't care, it's the poor, the middle class and working class who are harmed the most, aka, the people who voted for all of these people and their policies in the first place. AND he also wants 10's of billions of dollars sunk into high speed rail too. While at the same time making energy prohibitively expensive because CA imports 50% of its electricity from coal fired plants in other states which would now be slapped with enormous surcharges.

      But for all those gears and wheels turning for all that effort and money, CA schools are the worst or nearly the worst in the country, it has the most poor people, the most welfare recipients, the most illegal aliens and the worst roads.

      Acting against one's own interest is built into the leftist Weltanschauung. Even Walter Reuther, famous union boss, ex Communist and major Democratic figure understood this. In his famous strike battle with Ford in 1941, A Ford exec snarked "How do you plan to get these boys to pay your union dues, Walter?" Reuther looked around, shook his head, and said, "How do you plan to get them to buy your cars?"

      Eventually you run out of people to be trampled under by the boots of the do-gooders. And then what? So the Jews will vote "D" and go with whatever plan Obama has for harming the Jews. Eventually they will run out of themselves no longer calling them "Jews" to take the moral high ground with. In a generation American Jews will resemble more what it did in 1900 than what it did in 1970. That's a given. Orthodoxy will survive even thrive as the rest of the people who still nominally call themselves Jews are now 1 or 2 or 3 generations from any knowledge of it or affinity for it. They will be Jews like I'm Russian, which is to say, not. But my grandparents were. There won't be any Reform or Conservative shuls in America. There won't be any membership. But in the long run when you act against your interests you act against your very existence.

    4. Your response sounds like Tom Franks lamenting about working class voters voting against their interests by voting for Republicans. It's condescending and completely ignores that they have other interests that do not disappear or become irrelevant because of odious policies towards Jews.

      The question of whether the vote for Obama was during the primary or general is one of whether the preference for Obama was over Clinton or over Palin. There is no domestic policy difference to prefer one of Clinton or Obama over the other, therefore voting for Obama in the primary would mean voting for his stance in foreign affairs, including Israel. There were plenty of domestic differences with Palin (yes I know McCain was the presidential nominee, but the fact that he selected Palin shows who was driving his decision making).

      The correct response to Jews preferring a less lenient policy towards Israel over the reinstatement of Lochner is not to berate those Jews for that preference, but to provide options for them to vote both against Lochner and against the absolutist positions of Jordan's 1949-conquest provides a no ands-ifs-or-buts right for the Palestinians.

    5. My point was far broader. It has little to do with Israel. Is has to do with EVERYTHING. All down the line, leftism stands against the interests of the people who espouse it. Every issue.

    6. But that's not true. Leftism does serve the interests of it's chief promoters: Marxist college professors, government employees, and crony capitalists do benefit from expanding government, high taxes, complex regulations, and unlimited immigration.

    7. Trudy: Are you saying that it's against the interests of cancer survivors who couldn't get individual health coverage at a reasonable rate if at all to support Obamacare?

    8. Jacob: Crony capitalism? There's a party in this country that supports crony capitalism, and it's not the Democrats. The Republicans are the ones who forced the policies that enabled the banks to make the reckless loans that brought about the financial crisis. The Republicans are the ones who fought tooth and nail against the efforts to protect consumers from the crony capitalists' practices and are fighting now to overturn those results. If you don't believe me, explain why Wall Street has turned from supporting Democrats in 2008 to overwhelmingly supporting Republicans since then.

      Expanding government? Have you looked at government employment trends at all? After Obama became president, federal employment briefly rose as the Census Bureau was ramping up for 2010 and went back down after 2010 passed.

    9. The ACA's goal was to insure 47 million people. It reached about 6 and declared victory. Next year premium costs are climbing 36-54% generally, making it cheaper for poor people to pay the fine than to get coverage.

  5. Replies
    1. I'm just wondering if everyone at the Washington Post thinks that Netanyahu is Israel's President.
      As for Ms. Farooqi and J Street, perhaps someone could tell them that a way to end the "Occupation" (of Jewish ancestral lands by Jews) would be for Palestinian Arabs to accept a permanent two-state solution. I'm sure she is sincere in her quest for such a solution, but transparency works both ways. Someone needs to drill this message into Jeremy Ben Ami's head (preferably literally, with a real drill), since the PA and his own group are about as opaque as they come. Someone might also wish to mention to Ms. Farooqi that J Street's leadership often deceptive and mendacious, as one would and should expect from a public relations hustler such as Ben Ami, massaging poll numbers and other deceitful activities. Perhaps Jeremy could be persuaded to see Palestinian Arabs as human beings too, with no less an obligation to seek a permanent peace with the Jews and to be democratic themselves (and please, no more phony "right" of return). Otherwise Mr. Ben Ami is employing a double standard which in the short and long term hurts his pets. Perhaps Ms. Farooqie could also do a little more research and find out that Jews have the right to close settlement of all the land between the river and the sea, enshrined in international law through a League of Nations Mandate incorporated into the UN Charter, and that when Israel opts for a two-state solution they're saying they are willing to give up some of their ownership rights over their own land, rather being than criminal usurpers of another nation's sovereign territory.
      After all, transparency demands these things.

  6. I always thought the "J" in J Street stood for "Jim Baker." But maybe that was too generous. Maybe the "J" stands for "jihad."

  7. Sar Shalom,

    I voted for Obama in the primaries and in the general before his first term.

    In the run-up to 2008 the Republicans were screaming their bloody heads off about Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers and left-leaning Obama supporters, such as myself, ignored those voices.

    Most American Jewish Democrats are still ignoring those voices.

    But why are you drawing this distinction between the primary and the general?

    1. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, it's an issue of what you chose Obama over.

      Someone voting for Obama in the general could prefer the Republican foreign agenda but consider their preference for Obama's domestic agenda more important. In the primary, the Democrats' agendas were close to the same, so the only difference would have been over the foreign agenda.

      I'm guessing that you voted for Obama in the primary because he had the "correct" view of Iraq from the start. As I disagree with the notion that Obama's view was the correct one, I was never on that bandwagon.

    2. I didn't vote for Obama in the primary. I felt I didn't know enough about him and that he hadn't had much of a record to judge him by. I also found his past associations troubling. As I saw him campaigning on TV I thought to myself "he seems like a nice fellow, but let's give him another 4 years in the Senate to build a record I can look at." I was actually surprised that he won the nomination with such a scant record and I believe that were he white he well might not have. I also remember the hysteria exhibited by Keith Olberman over Hillary Clinton's comments about staying in through the California primary and a reference to Robert Kennedy, and that somehow she was marking then Senator Obama for assassination. It's been all down hill since then. He is like no other American President. Transformational, yes, but not in a good way. Could someone point out to me how the country has improved? The liberal press looks more like Pravda and the social fabric is tearing apart. Press conferences with his State Department spokesman sound Orwellian. To think the economy and employment are in good shape, one must to compare it to the end of the Bush Administration, otherwise its no great shakes, and foreign policy is in a shambles. It's the most un-American foreign policy I've seen in my lifetime, e.g., Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran. Obama wants to give hegemony to the worst actor in the region, and the one country seeking hegemony. Right now Iran is not a great military power, but Obama's policies will make it one. Remember, he couldn't give Morsi in Egypt enough military hardware. These policies border on sedition. He actually makes Neville Chamberlain look good by comparison. Caroline Glick put it well when she stated he has upended 70 years of America's non-proliferation policy. If he were a Republican the left would be hard at work denouncing him as a war criminal for Libya and Afghanistan.

    3. I have to say, I was one of those won over by his charisma in 2007, as were virtually all of my compadres in SF at the time.

      I felt honored to help usher-in the first black man into the Presidency.

      Like Obama I opposed Bush Iraq War II and, at the time, felt comfortable with him on foreign policy. Needless to say, I did not realize the degree or quality of his animosity toward Israel.

      And on domestic policy I certainly preferred him to the Republicans on all sorts of issues, both economic and social.

      But I have to give Obama credit because he taught me a lesson that I do not always readily take to.

      He taught me that I was very wrong and that I had to admit it.

    4. Mike,
      I have to admit that I did choose him over McCain/Palin, (I would have voted for the donkey over McCain/Palin) and the election of the first black president did provide a historic feel good moment.

    5. Sar Shalom,
      I think that there is something missing from your Obama vs. Hillary primary preference survey, i.e., Obama is a much better campaigner than Hillary Clinton.

    6. You could add to that Hillary's quite public profile as First Lady for eight years and her high negatives in public approval as being factors when deciding on a candidate who can win a general election. That being said, again, don't underestimate the power of the cult of personality in American politics. Therefore, I think you cannot limit the discussion as a difference between only domestic vs. foreign policy preferences, although I'm sure these were deciding factors for a portion of the Democrat primary and caucus voters.