By Larry Gordon
Even though it rarely seems like it anymore, we live in a country that features a government for the people and by the people of this great land of ours. That’s right—government officials, from Barack Obama downward, work for us, the taxpayers and the people who elect them to office as our representatives.
It is said about democracy that it is the worst type of governmental process except for all the others in existence. As voters, we can conclude that on a national level we have done a pretty shabby job in a general sense.
Take the presidential situation, for example. In 2008, 78% of Jewish voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama. He did a fairly awful job overall with the international apologies, the excuse-making for American exceptionalism, an assortment of significant scandals followed by stonewalling and cover-ups, and making certain that there existed some daylight in the U.S.–Israel relationship.
So what did we, as a community, do about that? In 2012—the last presidential election—only 69% of us in the Jewish community voted for Mr. Obama. Some expression of discontent that is, and what a way to express disappointment with Mr. Obama’s arrogance and attempts to not just degrade ISIS but also the U.S.–Israel relationship. Chances are if Mr. Obama could run for a third term, he would still stunningly receive the majority of the U.S. Jewish vote.
As his administration begins to draw to a close, the Jewish community has to be prepared, more than ever, for parting shots and lasting dangers in which Mr. Obama may seek to leave Israel as he rides off into the Chicago sunset.
A perfect example of this unfortunate scenario is the way in which the White House is handling the upcoming plans of Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress on March 3. Though it is an important address on a vital matter of interest in numerous international capitals, President Obama and his supporters are taking it as a personal affront and are working overtime to prevail on members of Congress to boycott Mr. Netanyahu’s address.
Perhaps the Israelis should have changed their plans and worked around the congressional address so as not to play into the critics—especially in the Congressional Black Caucus—who feel that Mr. Netanyahu, at Speaker Boehner’s request, is seeking to embarrass the president and expose his foreign-policy incompetence and doing so specifically because they disrespect him as the first American president who is black.
Frankly it seems absurd to have every challenge to this already challenged administration reduced to suggestions of racial discrimination. Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer has said repeatedly over the last few years that in the Obama White House, when it comes to a choice between being corrupt and being incompetent, he will go with incompetent at every turn. The suggestions that these critical assessments of the ineptness of the Obama administration are based on race are discriminatory in a reverse manner and a racial defense mechanism that hinders our country from dealing with vital security issues in a responsible fashion.
As ISIS slashes their way through the Middle East, it is just a wrongheaded distraction to repeatedly insist that Mr. Obama’s being more concerned about offering free community-college education or having his mind buried in the next golf-course sand-trap is about race.
In addition, as Iran continues its march toward the ability to produce and stockpile nuclear bombs that present an existential threat to Israel as well as numerous other Middle Eastern countries, it is just plain wrong to concern oneself about the optics of Israel’s leader addressing and warning Congress on the matter.
Now otherwise consistent supporters of Israel like Congressmen Charles Rangel and Gregory Meeks are being coaxed into making certain they are not present in their seats in Congress when Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to deliver his address on the Iranian threat in particular and the terrorist threat in general. And they have made clear to supporters that they are doing this at the behest of the president and because they feel that Mr. Obama is being disrespected in a sense because he is this country’s first African-American president.
Has this country ever had to deal with something so ridiculously absurd? If we want to take this absurdity to an even more, I’m sorry to say, idiotic level, perhaps we should be suggesting that the president would never have the audacity to ask important members of Congress to avoid the speech—including members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee like Mr. Meeks—if it were not Israel and a Jewish prime minister as the subject of all this distractive behavior.
At this juncture, as al-Qaeda and their offspring in ISIS continue to savagely butcher innocents by the dozens, how can we create a hubbub and distraction about the appearance before Congress of the leader of the greatest ally of the U.S. in the Middle East? It is both mindless and irresponsible as well as a detriment to world order and everyone’s security.
The best statement on the subject was issued by Nassau County Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice. “Thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions and ensuring Israel’s security should be something that unites both parties in Congress. But the recent controversy surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit threatens to drag this issue down to the level of divisive partisan politics. I refuse to contribute to that. Some people have urged me to sign a petition asking the prime minister to delay his speech, or to suggest that I won’t attend. I will not do either. I do agree that the invitation to the prime minister should have been arranged differently, but trading blame and pointing fingers will only further divide us. What’s done is done—the prime minister of our closest ally in the world is scheduled to address Congress on March 3, and when he speaks, I will be there to listen,” said Ms. Rice. “I made a commitment to the people of our district not to engage in the partisan politics that so often distract us from the real issues at hand and the real work to be done. That is what I will continue to do—especially when it comes to advocating for the security of the State of Israel and the safety of the Israeli people.”
This is the finest and most astute statement that has been issued by anyone in Washington from the president downward. It is sensible and pragmatic, with the emotions harbored by Mr. Obama and others where they belong—checked at the door.
Mr. Netanyahu does not need the address to Congress in order to advance his electability in the upcoming Israeli elections. Israel’s parliamentary system is only partially about who gets the most votes. Every indicator points to Mr. Netanyahu being the only person at this point who will be able to assemble a ruling coalition after the March 17 elections.
It is patronizing and even condescending to suggest that the congressional appearance by Mr. Netanyahu is a piece of campaign trickery. The Iranian threat is one that is a clear and present danger to Israel. Unfortunately, a president who sees himself as nothing more than a big-city mayor with the responsibility to keep crime statistics to a minimum just does not get it.
As far as we are concerned here, it is important to note that Kathleen Rice gets it. Greg Meeks does not. v
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