Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ben and Barack: Like Peas in a Pod

If it is accurate, Benjamin Netanyahu's account of a conversation between him and Democratic-candidate Obama last summer confirms what only the most wilfully blind individuals cannot see: Obama courted the Left, but moved to the center after he secured the Democratic nomination (which is hardly an unusual move). According to an article in the New York Times, Netanyahu describes a portion of their meeting as follows:

As it was ending Mr. Obama pulled Mr. Netanyahu aside from their aides to a corner of the room in the King David Hotel.

“You and I have a lot in common,” Mr. Obama said, according to Mr. Netanyahu’s account. “I started on the left and moved to the center. You started on the right and moved to the center. We are both pragmatists who like to get things done.”
Question: Did Obama really describe himself as a "pragmatist"? If so, that adds a new perspective on the litany of media accounts which have used the exact same language to describe him.


Infidel753 said...

Well, I would hope Obama is a pragmatist. As it is, the quote suggests that in his thinking, concepts like "left", "right", and "center" are just political abstractions, devoid of their intractable and messy real-world content and context.

Netanyahu was probably too polite to explicitly point out the real-world -- one might even say pragmatic -- difference between himself and Obama: that Obama does not represent a very small nation under imminent threat of extermination by flaming religious nutcases who are feverishly trying to build nuclear bombs for the purpose. This circumstance obviously means that, at least on foreign policy, the consensus range of thinking (that is, the "center") in Israel is rather different than in the United States.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Infidel - did you have your oat bran this morning? Once I got through your very colorful description of the Arab-Iraeli conflict, I found this marvelous gem: "This circumstance obviously means that, at least on foreign policy, the consensus range of thinking (that is, the "center") in Israel is rather different than in the United States."


Infidel753 said...

Some people in the US (not Obama, I'm sure) seem unaware that the Gaza military operation was carried out by a left-wing Israeli government. Even if Avigdor Lieberman were inclined to let Netanyahu "move toward the center", that center might be difficult to recognize for politicians whose voters are free to go about their business without rockets routinely dropping out of the sky around them at random.

American Presidents have a history of approaching the Israeli-Muslim conflict as if it were just another exercise in back-room horse-trading negotiation to hammer out disagreements (those being largely posturing to begin with) among opposing political factions. Broker the right deal, collect a Nobel prize, and move on to the next problem.

Trouble is, Jerusalem isn't Washington or Chicago. The stakes and the historical context are totally different. A Holocaust survivor was once asked what lesson he had learned from his experience, and he replied: "When a man says he wants to kill you -- believe him." If Netanyahu makes a bad decision, his voters won't just complain about tax rates or unemployment, they'll be exterminated. I hope Obama grasps the difference. The quote suggests he thinks this is just another political problem.

Oat bran?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Oat bran - you seemed just a tad grumpy in your post. Or -- the more likely possiblity: I haven't had my coffee yet. So when I read your post, it seemed more emotional to me. But you know it's all good!

Thanks for your analysis, as usual.

Hershblogger said...


The colorful description, "flaming religious nutcases who are feverishly trying to build nuclear bombs for the purpose," could be rephrased thus, "virulently anti-Semitic leaders of an Islamic religious state who constantly speak of the holocaust as unfinished business, and who promise to use nuclear bombs to complete Hitler's project: Which they, in any case, deny took place."

Somehow, stating it this way seems more inflammatory, invoking a specific religion and "Hitler," but it is simply factual - including adjectives. In some ways, your phrasing is less "colorful" than a simple statement of well known facts.

Your forbearance is laudable.

As to left-wingers carrying out operation Cast Lead, truly existential threats tend to focus your attention on the threat, political philosphy quite aside.

Finally, the discussion of left-right and the holocaust should be informed by the fact that Hitler's party was socialist, and that more leftists in today's United States wish Israel ill than all others combined. This would tend to reinforce your point that the center is quite a different place here than in Israel.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hershblogger - if your analysis responds to my post, you are reading way too much into what I said. Way too much. I doubt Infidel is exhibiting forbearance. We have communicated on here many times, and I assume he knows when I'm being sarcastic.

Hershblogger said...

The psychological bandwidth of email and blog posts tends toward the low side. Sarcasm can indeed be hard to recognize.

This is especially true in cases where, say, forbearance is praised after repeating the point in question.

Maybe I'll add a smiley next time.

Infidel753 said...

Aw, guys, please don't fight over me :-). Prof. Hutchinson and I are both well aware of our different styles of preferred terminology. It's entertaining.

It's true, though, that since facial expressions and tones of voice are not conveyed, such undertones can fail to come through. I intended no disrespect except to Obama's (suspected) naïvté.

The truth the Middle East is so extreme that any honest description of it is likely to sound vehement. If there's one place where unexamined hope-and-change rhetoric is likely to run into the buzz saw of reality, it's there.

Hershblogger's elaboration of the Iranian regime and its designs is, alas, accurate. Israel is a "liberal" state in the ways that count -- a democracy with the rule of law, and the only place in the Middle East where atheists, homosexuals, etc., can exist unpersecuted, while its enemies are societies mired in religious fanaticism and intolerance straight out of the Dark Ages. As a liberal I have no difficulty seeing which side is worthy of support. The critical issue, of course, is Obama's real intentions -- which on this issue, as on so many others, remain frustratingly opaque.

Hershblogger said...

Caroline Glick's commentary on Obama's policies vis-a-vis Isreal may be of interest here. An excerpt:

"SINCE IT came into office a month ago, every single Middle East policy the Obama administration has announced has been antithetical to Israel's national security interests. From President Barack Obama's intense desire to appease Iran's mullahs in open discussions; to his stated commitment to establish a Palestinian state as quickly as possible despite the Palestinians' open rejection of Israel's right to exist and support for terrorism; to his expressed support for the so-called Saudi peace plan, which would require Israel to commit national suicide by contracting to within indefensible borders and accepting millions of hostile, foreign-born Arabs as citizens and residents of the rump Jewish state; to his decision to end US sanctions against Syria and return the US ambassador to Damascus; to his plan to withdraw US forces from Iraq and so give Iran an arc of uninterrupted control extending from Iran to Lebanon, every single concrete policy Obama has enunciated harms Israel.

At the same time, none of the policies that Obama has adopted can be construed as directed against Israel. In and of themselves, none can be viewed as expressing specific hostility toward Israel. Rather, they are expressions of naiveté, or ignorance, or - at worst - deliberate denial of the nature of the problems of the Arab and Islamic world on the part of Obama and his advisers.

The same cannot be said of the administration's decision to send its delegation to the Durban II planning session this past week in Geneva. Unlike every other Obama policy, this is a hostile act against Israel. This is true first of all because the decision was announced in the face of repeated Israeli requests that the US join Israel and Canada in boycotting the Durban II conference."

Whole thing at the link where .

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Ah, Infidel - a "group hug." Did you have your Wheaties today? I had my coffee, so I am ready for emotion and melodrama ("accurate" or otherwise).

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