Thursday, February 28, 2008

More Obama stuff

Daniel Larison, one of the most productive paleo-conservative writers around has been devoting a lot attention to Obama on his blog. And he drew my attention to John Hagee's endorsement of John McCain. "When he is not glorying in the bombardment of countries with large Christian (and non-Protestant) populations, [Hagee] pushes quite venomous anti-Catholicism," Larison points out, and he provides a link to Glenn Greenwald's Some hateful, radical ministers -- white evangelicals -- are acceptable who raises an interesting question:
Why is Louis Farrakhan deemed by our political establishment to be so radioactive as to not be fit for good company -- black candidates are required to repudiate his support even when they haven't sought it and denounce his views even when they've never advocated anything close to those views -- but John Hagee is a perfectly acceptable figure whom mainstream GOP politicians are free to court without any consequences or media objections?

Larison seems to agree with Greenwald on this point:
Whatever his apocalyptic visions (which the secular supporters of Israel regard as nonsense), Hagee is on board with hard-line policies towards Palestinians and Israel’s neighbours that count as respectable and “responsible” views, while Obama is being linked, either through his pastor or otherwise, with figures who obviously do not endorse those policies, so in this truly odd view a Hagee endorsement is a feather in McCain’s cap and Obama’s associations are troubling and in need of clarification.

But then he provides an ironic touch to this discussion:
While it is, of course, true that Hagee’s vision of Armageddon is not what anyone could reasonably call “pro-Israel,” the working definition of what it means to be “pro-Israel” in America is already fairly unreasonable. Obama recently received praise in some quarters and scorn in others for distinguishing between pro-Likud and pro-Israel positions, but when it was the current Israeli Kadima government that embarked on one of the most counterproductive campaigns and suffered one of the most ignominious military failures of Israeli history (which Obama dutifully supported in the Senate) this does not really reflect all that well on his policy views. What I haven’t seen anyone mention is that Obama endorsed the same campaign in Lebanon in terms that would have been quite satisfactory to John Hagee. By the conventional definition of these things, this means that Obama is clearly not “anti-Israel.” However, if the sort of overreaching military responses that Hagee endorses and McCain, Lieberman and Obama all support are not really in Israel’s best interest it may not be all that desirable that Obama can demonstrate his “pro-Israel” bona fides. What the double standard of treatment means, however, is that Obama is going to have to overemphasise his willingness to endorse dangerous and reckless policies towards Iran and other Near Eastern states to overcome the completely false perception that he is somehow insufficiently “pro-Israel.”

And apropo Obama and Israel: Check-out Tony Karon's Obama and the "Jewish vote." Karon who approaches the subject from a liberal/non-Zionist/Jewish perspective argues that Obama is, well, good for the Jews:
The problem with Obama, for the Zionist establishment — and some Israeli politicians have made this clear — is that he may be too even-handed in dealing with Israel and the Palestinians. He may not muster quite the same degree of racist contempt for the Palestinians that can be safely expected from a Hillary Clinton (they’re not entirely sure of John McCain, either, fearful that he might send Republican “realists” of the Scowcroft-Baker variety to the Middle East rather than Irgun fighters like Elliot Abrahams, Bush’s Mideast point-man). As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, “Visiting the region in 2005 as senator for New York, Senator Clinton shunned the Palestinians completely, meeting only Israeli leaders and hearing and expressing only Israeli positions. She particularly galled Palestinians by enthusiastically backing the 700-kilometre complex of walls and fences that Israel is building inside the West Bank.”

When Obama gently but firmly suggested to Ohio Jewish voters that there was a difference between being a friend to Israel and embracing the toxic Likud view of how to approach its neighbors, some Zionist commentators went apoplectic — Haaretz’s manic U.S.-based nationalist watchdog Shmuel Rosner howled that Obama was interfering in Israeli internal affairs! But then Rosner represents the Zionist alte-kakker perspective to a tee, with grading of American political candidates solely on the basis of their level of hostility to Israel’s foes and willingess to give it carte blanche to destroy the Palestinians and itself. Why Haaretz publishes this crank, I have no idea, but it should be embarrassed to run this sort of tribalist drivel which most American Jews find acutely embarrassing.

The reality is that Obama may be just the sort of friend Israel needs; the sort of friend that restrains you from driving home drunk. is where I find myself. I share some of the reservations that Larson has about Obama (read his posts on that), and I certainly feel very uncomfortable with the "messianic" elements in his campaign. But...if Obama is running against McCain in a campaign dominated by Iraq, Israel/Palestine and the Middle East, it seems to me that Obama represents views that are closer to mine on these issues. It doesn't mean that I buy into his entire foreign policy agenda. This is what I'm saying about that in a soon-to-be-published analysis:
Obama’s views seem to correspond to the a sub-genre of the Wilsonian perspective -- a Wilsonian diplomat (as opposed to the a Bush W-style Wilsonian warrior aka “neo-conservative”). Not unlike former President Jimmy Carter, Obama wants to use American diplomatic and economic power to expand cooperation among members of the international community through the influence of interdependency and the force of globalization, although he would use military power to prevent genocide, for example -- but not as a way of promoting those “crude” strategic and economic interests. [I'm a realist Jeffersonian and don't subscribe to these idealistic foreign policy perspective. But]In the context of the Middle East, this approach will probably predispose Obama to embrace and to implement the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which in addition to bringing Syria and Iran and well as other regional and international players into the negotiations on the future of Iraq, could lead to a new emphasis on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
That explains why I find myself in agreement with many of the points that Karon makes while sympathizing with Larison’s reservations. That doesn't mean that I'll vote for Obama. I hope that Ron Paul decides to run on a third party ticket (miracles do happen...). But I think that anyone who wants to bring an end to the costly American misadventure in the Middle East is hoping that Obama will win and that McCain loses.

The One-State Solution?

I personally don't support the idea, as I pointed in Two People, Two States But as a UPI reportindicates, it's starting to get late for that:
Census figures show that Palestinians are likely to become a majority in Israel and the occupied territories in five years, a report said Wednesday.

On the Israeli side, the figures give new urgency to the peace process, The Washington Times reported. On the Palestinian side, some intellectuals have begun to talk of a "one-state solution," a Muslim-majority bi-religious state that would merge Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

"If Israel wants to call it Israel from Jordan to the Mediterranean, I accept it. So we'll be equal to them," said Saeb Erekat, a chief negotiator on the Palestinian side. "And with the majority, I will change the name of the Knesset to Parliament and the name of Israel to Palestine. It's a democracy."

What Israelis call "the demographic problem" has been a factor since the 1967 war. Israelis knew that keeping the West Bank and Gaza would eventually threaten the country's Jewish identity.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics found that the two territories now have a combined population of 3.76 million, 30 percent more than a decade ago. Combined with the 1.4 million Palestinians living in Israel, that makes 5.2 million, compared to 5.8 million Jewish Israelis.

In fact, if one adds to the number of Arabs in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza, the number of about 500,000 "guest workers" in Israel and around 300,000 Russian immigrants who are not Jewish, there is already a non-Jewish majority in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

Will there be a happy ending for Democrats?

Business Times - 29 Feb 2008

Will there be a happy ending for Democrats?

Whoever wins the party's nomination won't have it easy against the McCainiacs in Nov


ONCE upon a time in the Pundit-Land of Washington, there lived the Presumptive Presidential Nominee of the Democratic Party, Queen Hillary Clinton.

The former First Lady, who gained much of her political experience while serving as an unofficial confidante of the president, Bill Clinton, was expected to preside over the Clinton Restoration, while facing only some weak opposition from marginal Democratic rivals and then rolling over the Republican opponent.

In fact, for a few months last year, the Presidential Race of 2002 was perceived by many Washington insiders as nothing more than the preparation for the crowning of Hillary, and the ushering in of the Clinton II Era, as they started to speculate not about who would be the next president but about who would be serving in the top positions in the Clinton II Administration.

Hence, according to the then-conventional wisdom, by the end of President Hillary Clinton's term in office (in 2016), an American born in 1990 would probably recall that during his or her lifetime, the White House was always occupied by either a Bush or a Clinton.

But after her opponent Barack Obama had won his ninth straight contest in Wisconsin and as Hillary Clinton prepares for the crucial Democratic primaries in Ohio and Texas, this 'she-has-the-nomination-locked-in-her-purse' scenario is beginning to sound more and more like a fairy-tale.

Or is it?

In the midst of the Obamania that seems to be sweeping America, old political hands in Washington are cautioning that one should not underestimate the political survival skills of the Clintonites aka the Comeback Kids.

And while the numbers don't look good for Hillary after Mr Obama seemed to have gained a slight edge over her in the number of pledged delegates (those elected in the primaries) and 'super-delegates' (those nominated by the party leaders), a very big win by Mrs Clinton in the delegate-rich Ohio and Texas on March 4 and perhaps a week later in Pennsylvania could tip the balance of power back in her favour.

In short, as they say in politics, it's not over - until it's over.

The Obama-Maniacs are portraying the Clintonites' comeback scenario as nothing more than wishful thinking. Indeed, the problems confronting Mrs Clinton are structural and have less to do at this stage with the possible changes in the management and quality of her campaigning in the coming primaries.

Since the first caucuses in Iowa, Mrs Clinton's strength among key electorate groups in her party has gradually been eroding. She lost her earlier edge among African-American voters - males and females - to Mr Obama (thanks, among other things, to remarks made by her husband that were construed as 'racist').

Opinion polls are also showing that Mr Obama was beating Mrs Clinton among white male voters as well as among young and college-educated white males and females.

And the results from Wisconsin, whose manufacturing-based economy has been experiencing a recession, indicate that Mr Obama has slowly but surely made inroads into two of Mrs Clinton's most important constituencies - blue-collar workers and women, who are expected to play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the primaries in Ohio.

Finally, Mr Obama seems to gaining more support among Hispanic voters, another traditional pro-Clinton electorate bloc who constitute an important voting group in Texas. As the joke goes, Mrs Clinton can secure her support only among one demographic group: White women over the age of 80.

Moreover, many of the 'super-delegates', who include most of the leaders of the Democratic party such as former presidential candidate Al Gore, have been telling reporters that they have been impressed by Mr Obama's political rise and his ability to draw the support of young voters and that they are concerned about Mrs Clinton's 'negatives', especially the fact that 49 per cent of American voters insist that they would never vote for her. Thus, they reason, it would make it very difficult for her to beat the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain, in November.

At the same time, the young and charismatic Mr Obama, who unlike Mrs Clinton, had opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, has a very good chance of winning the presidential race by portraying himself as the agent of 'change' and by depicting Mr McCain as an extension - and an older one at that - of George W Bush.

The Democratic Party's elders also want to ensure that the clash between the Clintonites and the Obama-Maniacs doesn't spill over into the national convention in Denver and turn into a bloody floor fight that would all but secure the election of Mr McCain.

Hence if Mrs Clinton fails to win impressive victories in Ohio and Texas - measured by a more than 10 per cent lead over her opponent - she would face enormous pressure to withdraw from the race and allow Mr Obama to prepare for the presidential election.

Mrs Clinton and her aides have clearly exhibited some signs of desperation. They have accused Mr Obama of 'plagiarism' for repeating in speeches comments made by one of his close political allies and have tried to suggest that Mr Obama is surrounded by 'anti-Israeli' foreign policy aides.

And in addition to several shake-ups in the management of Mrs Clinton's campaign, some of her big donors have accused her of wasting funds.

At the same time, there are also some indications of a backlash against Mr Obama in the media, where many pundits are now starting to ask whether there is any substance behind his bombastic rhetoric of 'change'. While this backlash might be coming too late as far as Mrs Clinton is concerned, it could have an impact if and when the Obama-Maniacs face the McCainiacs in November.

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