Thursday, October 4, 2012


(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

I've been back home in California since the second week in August, and am now getting ready to head back home to Israel in about 10 days. Being back in Sacramento is always fun. Family, friends, the Sierras, the San Francisco Bay Area, calm suburban living, baseball, easy parking.   Hard to argue with.

But as much fun as it has been, it also has been depressing to watch some of American policies from here. Things seem upside down. At a minimum, it's very confusing.  Here are a few reasons why:

President Obama said that it would be crossing a red line if chemical weapons were moved in Syria.  (They were and the U.S. did nothing.)  Yet the Administration says we don't draw red lines when it comes to Iran's development of nuclear weapons, although it is clear that what we have been doing has not yet worked. 

The U.S. got involved in Libya.  No one can disagree with saving lives and overthrowing a dictator, but I have yet to find anyone who can identify what U.S. strategic interest was served there. On the other hand, the Syrian government is slaughtering its own people at an incredible rate, it is possible that its chemical weapons will fall into the hands of Hezbollah and be used against Israelis or Americans, and Iran is actively supporting the Syrian government.

Iran is developing nuclear weapons with all of the possible disastrous consequences of that for U.S. interests, Israel, Europe, and a Middle East nuclear arms race.  U.S. intelligence experts have testified  that Assad's overthrow would be the biggest foreign policy blow to Iran in 25 years. And. yet, the U.S. is doing next to nothing in Syria, not even "leading from behind."

The Obama Administration refuses to draw red lines for Iran and it undermines Israel every time it tries to make a credible threat of its own military action, despite the fact that it is clear that sanctions alone will not now stop Iran but perhaps sanctions and a credible threat of immediate action might have a slight chance. 

The September 4th N.Y. Times reported that President Obama recently approved the cutting off of Iran's nuclear facilities from its electrical grid.  He reportedly previously rejected that option because it would have inconvenienced Iranian civilians. 

Let's see: helping to prevent mad men who openly declare their intention to eliminate a country and slaughter its seven million people from obtaining the most deadly weapons ever devised versus causing some people to go without electricity for awhile.  Seems like a no-brainer, but apparently it was not.

The Administration supported the overthrow of Egyptian President Mubarak and welcomed the election of a Muslim Brotherhood president.  The U.S. pledged to continue to provide billions in aid to the new democratic government.  Then the President declares that Egypt is not a U.S. ally.  The next day the Administration declares that Egypt is a U.S. ally.

The U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya is attacked on September 11th by trained, disciplined terrorists using high-powered, sophisticated weapons.  Libyan authorities characterize the attack as a planned, well-executed operation using the riots protesting a dumb video about Mohamed as cover. 

For close to a week, despite all evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Administration says the attack was not a planned terror attack but simply part of the spontaneous demonstrations.  Then the intelligence services say the Libyans were right in the first place.

When L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ruled on his third try and over a chorus of boos  that two-thirds of the Democratic Convention delegates had voted to reinsert Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the Convention platform, the word was that President Obama had personally directed that the language be adopted.

If so, why doesn't he direct the State Department to implement his policy position, starting with dropping its defense of a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court over the denial of the right of a young American-Israeli to identify Jerusalem, Israel as his place of birth in his American passport?  After all, to paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, what the hell is the power of the presidency for?

Given America's ongoing, deep economic problems and the disarray that much of our foreign policy is in, one would reasonably conclude that the President should be in deep reelection trouble or, at the very least, the race should be close.  That it now appears that, barring a jolting and unforeseen development, the President will win fairly comfortably, is testimony to the fact that most people find him and his family likable, to the fact that the Republican Party has gone so far to the right that it manages to alienate a huge number of American voters, and to the fact that the Romney campaign might very well be the worst campaign since the 1988 Dukakis campaign.  As a friend of mine recently said, all that is needed now is for Governor Romney to hop in a tank and put on the helmet.

How does a party expect to win  an election in 2012 when it alienates gays, their parents, their friends, and their sisters and brothers; Hispanics and other large immigrant populations; and at least half of the women in the country? 

How does it expect to win when it seems to have an overabundance of hate-filled people who cannot edit themselves, from a backbench congressman who thinks that rape can be categorized as "legitimate" versus, presumably, "non legitimate," to Republican convention attendees who think it is acceptable to throw peanuts and hurl epithets at an African American reporter?  What century are these people in?

It's been great to be back in the States for a couple of months.  Lots of fun.  But I do think that perhaps I paid a little too much attention to the news.  So I am feeling a bit upside down and confused. 

My remedy:  head to the Middle East.



  1. Try to find a ray of hope (as I do) in the fact that normally right-wing conservative Muslims who run the street markets in Tehran had a lovely clash with Tehran police yesterday over the crash of the Rial’s value
    due to the sanctions on Iran. Is it possible we are seeing the start of the next Iranian revolution? I don’t want to get my hopes up too much….

  2. I think you have underestimated Romney's chances in your latest blog/article. Did you see last night's debate?

    And which Party has been hijacked by its crazies? You made reference to the ugly, anti-Semetic (and anti-democratic) vote at the Dem convention. There is nothing like that within the ranks of the GOP. In fact most Rep's in Congress are Israel's best allies. The same cannot be said of most Dem's.

    So you need to reconsider your long history with the Dem Party and your jaded perspective of the GOP. Neither are your father's Parties of yesteryear. Just ask Bibi who he prefers wins in November. Not even a close call.

    Be safe

    1. I am registered in California as a Decline To State.

  3. Like the instability of our Sukkah... All we have is emuna!

  4. As always you are right on!
    Your piece ought to be published in every Jewish newspaper in the country.

  5. did u love the debate?

  6. I read your recent blog and while I agree with your characterizations of some vocal whacked out Republicans, I have to disagree with your implied conclusions. Supporting an individual candidate or a party for that matter is not a matter of identifying particular positions or gaffes that are the most egregious or extreme. It is, or should be more a matter of prioritizing respective philosophies and not losing sight of the overall macro picture. The booing at the Democratic Convention was far more reflective to me of a disturbing underlying Democratic perspective that dramatically overshadows the individual nut jobs in the Republican Party.

    As you know, I was both a supporter and fundraiser for Obama in 2008. Considering the McCain/Palin alternative, I have no regrets about this support but while I remain a registered Democrat, this will be the first year in my adult life that I will probably not support any member of that party. Without meaningful entitlement reform, the future prospects for our children and grandchildren will not be pretty; in fact, it is going to be an unmitigated disaster for the next generation. Romney was right in that this is fundamentally a moral issue. It is a challenge that has has zero possibility of being addressed by the current Democratic party who's very existence is now fueled by those with a vested interest in the entitlement status quo.

    Without a consistent foreign policy devoid of political correctness and a clear eyed understanding of what a nuclear armed Iran means to the world, let alone Israel, the future is unimaginable. This too, as evidenced by the Democratic convention is not something the current party leadership can confront even if they wanted to. So.......with no disrespect intended, it kind of boggles me as to how you can use the notable missteps of Romney's campaign and the extreme and stupid positions of some in the party to imply there is some "repugnance" equivalence between the current Republicans and Democrats macro political perspectives. I think you are letting your political upbringing and past influences cloud your better judgement.

    As my grandfather used to say, I never left the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me. I sadly now feel the same. There is no question that some Republican positions are neanderthal....but their underlying philosophy is the correct one. Government has become too large, overly intrusive and in many cases, counter productive to the historical ideals of the American grand political experiment.... a government that is constantly eroding any lingering sense of personal responsibility and is at ease with mortgaging the future of our children.....a government that appears defensive about supporting our democratic allies in words and deeds and and succumbs to political correctness rather than openly resisting those who want to destroy us.

    Criticizing the extreme right wing of the Republican party is very easy to do and always scores enthusiastic points in most Jewish settings; in the end it serves no other purpose but to distract us from how much the Democratic leadership and base has changed in very fundamental ways that in my mind are far more threatening to the future of both America and Israel.