Why the hell is everyone so mad at Obama over Israel? From where I sit, the bulk of my fury is toward Netanyahu and Abbas.
While it annoys me to no end that after his famous Cairo speech, Obama didn't get on a helicopter and fly directly to Jerusalem to demonstrate to Israelis his sensitivity to their concerns of an increasingly hostile and unstable Arab world, it is far more obvious that Netanyahu's obstructionism (diplomatic humiliations, recriminations about self-hating Jews in the White House, continued settlement expansion) and Abbas' refusal to talk and negotiate during the one meaningful settlement freeze Bibi actually did offer each adds up to a far greater crisis than any messianic hopes American Jews and the opportunistic Republican candidates can pin on the President.
Let me be clear: Obama has disappointed me greatly. The bold rhetorical candidate of 2008 has been far to conciliatory toward a Republican strategy of the scorched earth approach they have taken to his presidency. He's never really gotten out in front to hammer away--relentlessly--at the total disaster he inherited domestically and internationally. In trying to be nice and mature toward those who would not only stab him in the back but shoot him in the face, he has lost stature and credibility in the hearts and minds of his once adoring base. Iraq and Afghanistan would likely see far greater U.S. casualties if we were fighting a war soldiered by the Selective Service; as it is, the President inherited a war-dead list of nearly 4000 U.S. soldiers that shows little sign of ending. He wins praise among national security experts for his progress in the war on terror and rooted out Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders (an achievement that eluded his predecessor) and yet somehow he allows himself to be painted into the corner of the wimpy, evil, closeted Muslim Manchurian leader, bent on evil and America's destruction. A few quips at the Press Dinner in DC shouldn't be his only well-publicized salvos of self-defense.
On the Congressional front, he had a year to take full advantage of a majority in his party being in charge. But the lack of discipline among those in party's leadership, combined with the White House's inability to push through legislation before the Republican machine set to its paranoid fantasies and usual dark arts of conspiracy theories and wacky packages of voodoo economics, had him losing Congress and creating the outlandish scenario in which comical characters like Perry, Romney and Bachmann (with Palin in the wings) are setting the terms of debate.
The national debt was Bush's. The stagnant economy was Bush's. The rising rates of joblessness were Bush's. The intractable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were Bush's. And the Tea Party, as it so happens, is more extreme and mired in fantasy than the worst elements in Bush's White House. But we're supposed to buy this hokum that this is all President Obama's fault?
This is ludicrous at best; potentially disastrous at worst.
And still, somehow, in the midst of it all, the President was supposed to do what no other American President had done--take the mediocrity of Abbas, barely capable of commanding a deeply divided Palestinian society and the most blatantly and diplomatically disrespectful Israeli Prime Minister in modern memory--somehow, in the midst of it all, he's supposed to get them to kiss and make up and build two states for two people?
And by the way, military and intelligence experts in Israeli nearly universally agree that Obama has *strengthened* the U.S. and Israel alliance. And last week, when the true face of the Arab Spring rose up and attacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, Obama was immediately engaged in defense of Israel. It's a sad statement of our rapidly diminishing collective attention spans that these kinds of facts die in a news cycle, only to be replaced by lies and hysteria.
So while journalists and experts wring their hands about Weiner's seat in Queens and the Jewish vote in the upcoming election, I will still pull the lever in November 2012 for President Obama. He has disappointed me on a number of occasions; he has not fought hard enough for the middle class and he's stepped down from a daily engagement against the character assassins who are out to get him; he has missed opportunities. He has a great sense of humor that unfortunately, he has not used enough to his advantage. But the mess he inherited--including an Arab-Israeli conflict that has remained unresolved for one hundred years--will take decades to clean up.
He can start to win people back by telling the truth and yes, it's never too late, by getting on a plane, having a beer in Tel Aviv, and then going to the Prime Minister's house in Jerusalem and telling him like it is.
I'm no prophet but if he did that, these diminishing poll numbers would go through the roof.