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No Left Turns

The Nuance of Barack Obama

Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview with Barack Obama this week for the Atlantic has generated a significant (if predictable) level of controversy. Some of the criticism of Obama has been fair and effective and some of it, probably, not so much. I will leave it to others to discuss the import of his statements as they apply to our relationship with Israel and why or why not Obama is an attractive candidate to Hamas. I will also leave aside the question of whether this is an indication that Obama is, in all essentials, more or less like Jimmy Carter. Others can and have addressed these questions with more authority.

What I want to address is the very revealing slip that Jennifer Rubin at the Commentary blog (linked above) notes, but does not elaborate. Barack Obama, in answering the question of whether he was "flummoxed" by the support of Hamas replied:

I wasn’t flummoxed. I think what is going on there is the same reason why there are some suspicions of me in the Jewish community. Look, we don’t do nuance well in politics and especially don’t do it well on Middle East policy. We look at things as black and white, and not gray. [emphasis mine]It’s conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, “This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he’s not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush,” and that’s something they’re hopeful about. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate perception as long as they’re not confused about my unyielding support for Israel’s security.
Rubin scoffs (and I share in her scoffing) at the notion that the leader of Hamas was only expressing his admiration for Barack Obama’s "oh so subtle and nuanced" reading of the politics of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But I’d add that the more Obama talks, the more he reveals of his contempt for the American people. "We don’t do nuance well," he tells us. Of course, we don’t. That’s why we need a clever and sophisticated and impossibly brilliant man like Barack Obama to do it for us. We’re probably all too bitter and too stupid . . . clinging to our guns and to our God and all. Indeed, it’s interesting that Barack Obama did not even feel compelled to visit the state of West Virginia yesterday, isn’t it? They probably don’t "do nuance" very well down in those parts either. But they sure know how to send a clear message, I’d say.

Discussions - 9 Comments

that explains his "cling to their religion and guns" comments and his offensive new ad (on Drudge right now) basically portraying himself as a preacher. Which is it? Is religion the opiate of the masses? Or are we electing the pastor-general of the United States?

Religion is evil when he's campaigning in San Francisco. Religion is awesome when he's campaigning in Kentucky. A little honesty, please?

Julie - Thanks for the alert to the interview. I will read. . .

You are pouncing on something here in a quite ridiculous way. he reveals of his contempt for the American people. "We don’t do nuance well," he tells us. As I read it, he was talking about our politics, our style of politics, our politics and the media. Your (over)reaction makes me want to write: Q.E.D.

Obama's line is an old one. It has been standard at least since the Progressive movement, perhaps since Voltaire and his friends began mocking all orthodoxies (except their own, which they contended was "reason" not orthodoxy.) With a striking lack of self-awareness and lack of irony, the line goes something like this--there are two ways of viewing the world: the simplistic and the nuanced.

Sorry Steve. I guess I just don't do that kind of nuance either. Heck, I'm so simplistic it seems to me that if a man has contempt for "our style of politics" he also has contempt for those doing the politics; i.e., for those who don't do that nuance thing very well. I'm sure you're right that he means the media, in part. But it's pretty hard to argue that he's exempting the good people of oh . . . I don't know, Palm Beach County, Florida? Or even West Virginia or Ohio or Kentucky or (possibly?) Michigan. It's o.k., though. Barack Obama is terribly nuanced. He can do that "nuance thing" for me and all the other rubes out there. (By the way, does a "nuance thing" trump a "vision thing" if you're playing "Rock, Paper, Scissors?" I don't know. Like I said, I'm probably too simplistic to answer something like that.)

But Barack Obama is not just a little nuanced. He's really nuanced. He's so nuanced that he can synthesize sympathize whole-heartedly with the Jews of Israel . . . who, he ridiculously asserts, are exactly like him because they also have no idea who they are--no sense of rootedness. (This is a wonderful trait in a President of the United States, don'tcha think? Not feeling any sense of rootedness?) Like Barack Obama, the Israelis (or rather, their situation)is neither black or white. It's gray. We can probably come to some resolution if we talk about it some more and admit that there's no "right" answer. Both sides in the conflict have a point. We used to call this the "moral equivalence" argument back in the days when we were all more simplistic and didn't have guys like Barack Obama to show us the nuance.

And didn't anyone else note the shades of Bill Clinton in that first bit of the interview . . . the navel gazing examination of an ongoing world existential crisis through the prism of his own personal (and, obviously, deeply troubled) life experience. This is why poets ought not to try statesmanship but statesmen (of course) ought always to consult the poets and do their best to use them for their purposes.

I can't help but recall the semi-auto-biography of Jonathan Netanyahu, {older brother of Benjamin, former commander of the Sayaret Matkal, killed in action at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, 1976}. Netanyahu went to high school in a suburb of Philadelphia, Cheltenham. In his letters home, he frequently noted the "greeness" of Pennsylvania, but went on to note that such beauty though noteworthy, left him only the more hungry for arid Israel. His distance away from Israel, in Cheltenham and later at Harvard, only rendered all the more intense his desire and determination to truly participate in the life of Israel. And not just Israel, but the history of the Israeli people themselves.

Yet Obama tells us a people that stretches back to antiquity is, like him, without roots.

I can recall off hand the last sentence in the last letter that Netanyahu wrote to his girlfriend, just prior to commencing Operation Thunderbolt. "I trust you, me, both of us to continue to live our lives to the fullest. You, your life and your youth, and I, my life, ----------------------- and the flicker of my youth. It will be OK."

Only creatures like Obama could even affect an ambiguity about the moral stakes involved. Only lost elites would even indulge the morally compromised "even-handed" approach between Israel and their Arab tormentors.

Americans, in their robust commonsense, have grown all the more intense in their support for Israel, and have grown all the more hostile to the aspirations of the "Palestinian" community. But for America's elites however, ---------------------------- it's quite the reverse.

Obama, as on so many other issues, reflects the confusion and the exhaustion of American elites. Or perhaps simply the prejudice of those elites, combined with those prejudices picked up from the "Reverend."

This is no time to go leaving the Israelis in the lurch.

I know this blog is called NoLeftTurns. It is partisan, often fiercely so, conservative, and overwhelmingly Republican. Hurrah for that. I tune in because I very often learn things; sometimes I find myself agreeing unexpectedly. The level of discussion is very high, even when it is fierce. What disappoints me, however, and makes me lose respect is partisanship of the sort shown in these readings of the Obama interview. Another example, to go with what I've already said about Julie's initial post (to which she has now added): Yet Obama tells us a people that stretches back to antiquity is, like him, without roots. . . And then we learn that Obama would leave Israel in the "lurch." Well, we know that people are at work sowing doubts about Obama among Jewish Democrats. That is to be expected, but does it become otherwise thoughtful partisans on NLT to indulge in such nonsense? I suppose you are trying out arguments that you think will persuade somebody.

Steve, take a look at Obama's foreign policy advisory staff. Hardly chock-a-block with pro-Israel types.

It isn't just Obama however. The State Department and the American establishment is increasingly under the sway of the Arab narrative. They're seeing Israel not just as the problem, but as the cause of all our muslim mayhem woes.

There are Republicans who subscribe to that view too, guys like GHWB and Baker. But they've gained a great deal of influence in the Democrat party. And that's a fact. And they've gained a great deal of influence in America's most prestigious universities, such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Duke.

It's bad. And it's going to get much worse.

What happened at Annapolis wasn't Obama, but what happened at Annapolis is indicative of the influence of the Arab narrative, and was a stain upon American honour.

So it's not just Obama and the Democrats, but the problem is much more pronounced on that side of the political divide.

Obama subscribes to some very radical views on American foreign policy. That's not moot.

Wow. I just read this site for the first time. As an ardent Obama partisan, I am very impressed. Really. No name calling, no cheap shots, and very thoughtful, albeit agressive, commentary. Most of you are wrong, of course, but that just makes it all the more interesting. I really want to understand the right wing world (no one has a monoply on the truth) but I am constantly frustrated by the dittoheads that make reasoned disagreement impossible.

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