About that ‘New’ Middle East…
Could there be a more perfect image of the catastrophic self-inflicted rout suffered by U.S. Middle East policy under President George W. Bush? This week, the President will party with Israel’s leaders celebrating their country’s 60th anniversary — and champion the pursuit of a phony peace agreement explicitly aimed at producing an agreement to go on the shelf — with Bush curiously choosing the moment to honor the legend of the mass infanticide and suicide of the Jewish Jihadists at Masada. Meanwhile, across the border in Lebanon, Hizballah are riding high on the tectonic shifts in the Middle East’s political substructure, making clear that the “new Middle East” memorably (if grotesquely) inaugurated by Condi Rice in Beirut in 2006 is nothing like that imagined or pursued by the Bush Administration. On the contrary, the Bush Administration has managed to weaken its friends and allies and empower its enemies to an almost unprecedented degree.
Democratic victory may be a bellwether
A Democrat won the race for a GOP-held congressional seat in northern Mississippi yesterday, leaving the once-dominant House Republicans reeling from their third special-election defeat of the spring.
Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat who serves as Prentiss County chancery clerk, defeated Southaven Mayor Greg Davis by 54 percent to 46 percent in the race to represent Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District, which both parties considered a potential bellwether for the fall elections.
Our great economic U-turn
What has overtaken America’s working people is not a natural disaster like “globalization,” and not even some kind of societal atavism in which countries regress mysteriously to their 19th-century selves. This is a man-made catastrophe, a result that proceeded directly from the deliberate beatdown of organized labor and the wrecking of the liberal state.
It is, in other words, a political disaster, with tax cuts, trade agreements, deregulatory measures, and enforcement decisions all finely crafted to benefit one part of society and leave the rest behind. Few of the voters who gave Ronald Reagan his landslide victories, it is fair to say, intended for this to be the outcome. They wanted their country to stand tall again, certainly; they wanted the scary regulators off their backs, maybe; but I can recall no conservative who trumpeted those long-ago elections – or any of the succeeding contests, for that matter – as a referendum on plutocracy.
Republicans twist Obama’s words about Israel
Did Barack Obama call Israel a “constant sore,” as Republican leaders are saying? Both House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) have taken the Democratic presidential front-runner to task for allegedly saying that Israel is a “constant wound” in U.S. foreign policy. The right-wing blogosphere is lending its voice to the chorus. But a fair-minded reading of Obama’s remarks shows that his comment has been taken completely out of context.
Obama gave an interview over the weekend to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic in which, among other things, he rejected former president Jimmy Carter’s characterization of Israel as an “apartheid state.” Here is the passage that has now become controversial.
Finding Obama guilty of insufficient devotion to Israel
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg conducted what he’s calling an “interview” with Barack Obama regarding Israel, but it sounded much more like an inquisition. Goldberg repeatedly demanded that Obama swear his devotion to Israel and affirm prevailing orthodoxies (“I’m curious to hear you talk about the Zionist idea. Do you believe that it has justice on its side?”; “Go to the kishke question, the gut question: the idea that if Jews know that you love them, then you can say whatever you want about Israel, but if we don’t know you –- Jim Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski –- then everything is suspect. There seems to be in some quarters, in Florida and other places, a sense that you don’t feel Jewish worry the way a senator from New York would feel it”; “Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?”; “If you become President, will you denounce settlements publicly?”). Afterwards, Goldberg pronounced himself satisfied: “Obama expressed — in twelve different ways — his support for Israel to me.”