Obama: Israel, US stalwart allies

American president tells potential Jewish donors to presidential campaign Jerusalem-DC relations transcend ‘tactical disagreements’

Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama spoke Monday at a fundraiser for potential Jewish donors to his 2012 presidential campaign and assured then that Jerusalem and Washington’s relations were unshakable.

“One inviolable principle will be that the United States and Israel will always be stalwart allies and friends, that that bond isn’t breakable and that Israel’s security will always be at the top tier of considerations in terms of how America manages its foreign policy – because it’s the right thing to do, because Israel is our closest ally and friend, it is a robust democracy, it shares our values and it shares our principles,” Obama said to roaring applause.

referring to regional changes sweeping the Middle East, Obama stressed that, “Both the United States and Israel are going to have to look at this new landscape with fresh eyes. It’s not going to be sufficient for us just to keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing and expect somehow that things are going to work themselves out.

“We’re going to have to be creative and we’re going to have to be engaged. We’re going to have to look for opportunities where the best impulses in the Middle East come to the fore and the worst impulses are weakened”

  • Obama at AIPAC (Photo: AP)
  • Such achievements, he continued, would have to be carved from a position of strength: “This is why my administration has done more to promote Israel’s security, its qualitative military edge, its defense capabilities than any administration over the last 25 years.And we have made that commitment consistently.  “But it also means that we’ve got to engage diplomatically… there are going to be moments over the course of the next six months or the next 12 months or the next 24 months in which there may be tactical disagreements in terms of how we approach these difficult problems. “But the broader vision, is one in which Israel is a secure Jewish state,” Obama stressed. “One where it is able to live in peace with its neighbors, where kids can get on the bus or go to bed at night and not have to worry about missiles landing on them, where commerce and interactions between peoples in the region is occurring in a normal fashion, where the hopes and dreams of the original travelers to Israel, the original settlers in Israel, that those hopes and dreams that date back a millennium, that those hopes are realized. That will remain our North Star. That will remain our goal.”Obama told the crowd that he was “absolutely confident” the goal could be achieved, reiterating that it was “going to require some hard work.”
    “It going to require that not only this administration employs all of its creative powers to try to bring about peace in the region, but it’s also going to require all of you as engaged citizens of the United States who are friends of Israel making sure that you are giving us suggestions, you are in an honest dialogue with us, that you’re helping to shape how both Americans and Israelis think about the opportunities and challenges.”

    “My hope,” he concluded, “Is that through the kind of conversations that we’re having here tonight, that we’re going to be able to, together, craft the kind of strategy that not only leads to a strong America, but also leads to a strong Israel.”


Private Parts / Anthony Weiner

The scandal seems to be less about Anthony Weiner’s sexual social networking than the fact that he got caught. As technology thins the line between public and private, do politicians retain a right to be human?

The national humiliation of Rep. Anthony Weiner represents something new in the politics of sex scandals. Ordinarily, these scandals come with a pretext, however thin, of public interest. The issue, we’re usually told, isn’t just sex—it’s a cover-up, or hypocrisy, or harassment, or financial malfeasance. But in Weiner’s case, the excuses for the salacious national pile-on are exceptionally thin. They mostly come down to the fact that, when confronted with an embarrassing secret vice, Weiner panicked and lied. There’s also shock at his extreme recklessness in risking such a scandal, though if that’s what the scandal is about, it’s weirdly recursive. In the end, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Weiner is being publicly annihilated for private, consensual communications that have hurt no one but himself and presumably his wife.

It’s understandable why his actions leave people disgusted. It would be less skeevy if he met his cybersex partners in cybersex forums, instead of enlisting his political admirers into masturbatory exchanges. The brazenness of his exhibitionism is unsettling; it appears at once narcissistic and, as Laura Kipnis has written, masochistic. He’s embarrassed his pregnant wife and his Democratic colleagues. Worst of all, from a strictly partisan point of view, he’s revived the credibility of the odious Andrew Breitbart.

But the core of his transgression was a small and mundane thing—engaging in sexual fantasies on the Internet. The fact that this has led to a salacious national excoriation has disturbing implications not just for Weiner, but for us all.

Understanding Weinergate
How social media felled a rising star, and how his Jewishness was involved
I say this with one caveat. It seems likely that Weiner tweeted the photo of his erection to a Seattle college student by accident, intending to send it to the porn star who was alphabetically just beneath her in his contacts queue. (By now, it seems beside the point to express dismay at having to write sentences like the previous one.) If it was something more than that—if he intended to send an unbidden picture of his penis to a young woman whose only interest in him was political—that is an inexcusable act of harassment.

Some feminists have argued that, consensual or not, the content of his exchanges reveals a man with a twisted attitude toward women. On the Daily Beast, Kirsten Powers, an ex-girlfriend and onetime close friend of Weiner’s, described being deeply disturbed by what he wrote to Las Vegas blackjack dealer Lisa Weiss. “Radar Online posted the transcript, and it is rife with misogyny and distorted views about women,” she writes. “In referring to oral sex, Wiener tells her, ‘You will gag on me before you c** with me in you’ and ‘[I’m] thinking about gagging your hot mouth with my c***.’ This is not about sex. It’s about dominating and inflicting physical pain on a woman, a fantasy the hardcore porn industry makes billions of dollars on selling to men.” These comments helped convince Powers, once a Weiner supporter, that he should resign.

Here’s my problem with this. It’s one thing to argue that Weiner should step down for being stupid enough to bring this kind of attention on himself, his family, and his party. It’s another thing to subject someone’s sexual fantasies to a political litmus test. Weiner is hardly outré in the way he eroticizes power. There’s no evidence, in the Powers piece, that Weiner actually treats women badly—indeed, she describes him as a loyal and thoughtful friend. There is something totalitarian about examining people’s erotic lives for ideological deviance.

That’s why human beings—even exhibitionists—need privacy. Until very recently, there was a tacit understanding that politicians, like the rest of us, had secret sides that needed to be accommodated. Few people think that FDR or JFK’s dishonesty about their sex lives somehow poisoned their ability to conduct the nation’s business. In recent years, though, two great forces conspired to do away with the ability of public figures to keep sexual impropriety discreet—feminism and technology.

It is a good thing, of course, that feminism banished the clubby understandings that enabled not just philandering but widespread sexual harassment and even rape. The drama around Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a stark reminder of the dark side of a radically laissez-faire attitude toward powerful people’s sexual appetites. During the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, liberals like myself looked longingly at France’s seemingly blasé sophistication, its urbane disinterest in its leaders’ sexual peccadilloes. Now we’ve learned that that disinterest extended to cases of coercion and assault.

It turns out that Strauss-Kahn’s penchant for pressuring women into sex was a sort of open secret, but few reported on it for fear of transgressing French norms of privacy. In the wake of his arrest in New York for allegedly trying to rape an immigrant maid, many French politicians and intellectuals have offered a dispiriting refresher course on the misogyny underlying the country’s culture of sexual entitlement. Journalist Jean-François Kahn dismissed the whole affair as a “troussage de domestique”—sometimes translated as lifting the skirt of a servant—as if Strauss-Kahn was simply a high-spirited aristocratic scamp. (Kahn later issued regrets for having made the statement.)

The television series Mad Men, set in the early 1960s, captures the American version of this mentality, which prevailed until feminism challenged it. That’s why the Clarence Thomas hearings were such a watershed—women are, thankfully, no longer expected to endure overtures and sexual taunts from our superiors. This is a prerequisite for equality.

Technology has further eroded people’s ability to have one self in public and another in private. Think of Jon Favreau, the Obama speechwriter forced to apologize for groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton at a drunken party. Given this, it was madness for Weiner to think his online life could remain secret. But this requirement that even moderately public people behave in publicly acceptable ways all the time? That’s madness, too.

Lately, we’ve seen a number of people undone for slips in the half-public world of social media. Last year, the conservative Daily Caller obtained the archives of a private listserv for left-of-center reporters and writers called JournoList, gleefully combing them for damaging tidbits. The Washington Post’s David Weigel lost his job for some of his comments, including one that suggested that Matt Drudge should set himself on fire—a bit of obviously jokey hyperbole that no one would have noticed had Weigel said it at a bar. In February, the ultra-intrepid war reporter Nir Rosen had to resign from his position at NYU’s Center for Law and Security because of an offensive and quickly regretted Twitter crack about journalist Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Egypt.

Now, people say offensive things about their colleagues and competitors all the time in ordinary life, and no one blinks. For both Weigel and Rosen, the sin wasn’t the words themselves, but the carelessness of letting them leak into the public sphere. The same is true of Weiner, even if his misdeeds are more serious. Very few of us could survive having our offhand comments or secret thoughts subjected to the public scrutiny of political enemies.

It could be that the ability to guard one’s public image, despite the Internet’s intrusions and temptations, is a requisite of modern political life. In that case, Weiner will have to go. But his crime wasn’t engaging in legal and not even particularly kinky cybersex. It was getting caught.

Given the virtual panopticon we now live in, Weiner won’t be the last person to be subjected to this kind of merciless exposure and ridicule. That’s why at some point, unless we want to endure a constant cycle of scandal and personal destruction, we should really figure out some way of forgiving people for being grossly human in public.


On Anthony Weiner

For those who don’t know, congessman Anthony Weiner sent a photo of his underwear covered…private area to a friend online.

The photo  went public and Weiner denied the truth of the story for several days.

When it appeared  that he couldn’t plausibly deny the story any longer, he gave a press conference (today) in which he admitted the facts of the story, asked for forgiveness, and vowed to stay on in congress.

Many people already hate Mr. Weiner.

He has been straightforward and aggressive in his defense of the workers and the poor.

I like the guy a lot.

He’s a good man who made some bad judgments.

I hope he gets this behind him and continues to serve the American people.

And Israel. A true liberal that loves and vehemently fights for Isael. Read this from Salon :

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s completely non-measured, non-conciliatory remarks on the Israeli attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla are proof that he’d rather be a successful New York politician than a prominent national liberal.

It’s a little odd, actually. Weiner has spent the last year becoming the sort of unapologetic liberal Democrat that netroots activists and cable news bookers love.

After deciding not to run for mayor of New York last year, Weiner dedicated himself to being a relentless advocate for the Democratic healthcare reform plan. (He blogged on HuffPo and everything.) He’s great with a sound bite and he’s a born street fighter in a party full of timid moderates. He’s Jon Stewart’s old college roommate. He’s taking on Glenn Beck and sparring with Bill O’Reilly. He’s easily one of the most prominent liberal politicians in the nation.

But at the end of the day, he still wants to be mayor of New York, once billionaire Mayor-for-Life Michael Bloomberg finally grows bored and steps aside.

Will the liberals who only know Weiner from his feisty MSNBC appearances and his staunch support of the president’s domestic initiatives be put off when they hear him taking the “Israel can do no wrong” side in the debate over Israel’s botched raid, in international waters, of a humanitarian aid flotilla?

Weiner’s statement is comical. “Even if we are the only country on earth that sees the facts here,” Weiner says, “the United States should stand up for Israel.” That’s the statement of a man with whom there can be no reasoning.

And it’s not, by any means, outside the norm for Weiner. He’s precisely the sort of liberal establishment politician that Peter Beinart accused of failing young American Jews in the New York Review of Books recently. In the past, Weiner has matter-of-factly accused Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of being anti-Semitic. And not just them!

“I would argue that in many cases, the New York Times has” anti-Israel bias, Weiner told Amy Goodman in 2006. The idea of any elite, establishment newspaper in New York having an “anti-Israel bias” makes sense only if you consider any criticism of any action taken by the state of Israel to be out of line.

Also in 2006, Weiner introduced legislation banning aid to the Palestinian Authority and barring the Palestinian delegation to the U.N. (and kicking them out of the county). Weiner insisted that the PLO was a terrorist organization. And the delegation, he said, “should start packing their little Palestinian terrorist bags.”

His demagoguery on this particular issue largely stopped once he decided he couldn’t beat Bloomberg. But he’s hawkish enough that Ronn Torossian, a scummy publicist who once told a journalist that he wants a thousand Arabs to be killed for every Jew, threw Weiner a “breakfast reception” in January. I doubt Torossian (who’s represented right-wing religious cranks Benny Hinn and John Hagee) appreciates Weiner for his advocacy for single-payer Medicare for all Americans.

Support for Israel in all its conflicts is still the bipartisan norm in Congress, but the rise of the neocons in the Republican Party has made unquestioning support of Israel’s current right-wing government increasingly a right-wing concern in the U.S. Democrats face pressure from the young, activist base to be more critical of Israeli actions than they were expected to be a generation ago.

But Weiner needs the support of New York’s Orthodox and Hasidic communities if he wants to be mayor. And it’s bad enough that he recently married a Muslim woman! (Check out the comments here if you want to see how quickly some right-wing Israel supporters can turn on one of their most steadfast political allies.) Philip Weiss says Weiner just repeats the talking points of the Israel lobby because that’s what his constituency wants to hear. If that’s true or not, he’ll continue repeating the far-right line on Israel.

It will be interesting to see what sort of statement Sen. Chuck Schumer makes, if he makes one. Schumer’s untouchable in New York, and he’s been, like his protégé Weiner, a staunch ally of Israel throughout his carer. But Schumer wants to be the Senate majority leader. And a good portion of the senators who might support Schumer want an unapologetic liberal leader. I imagine Schumer will put out something equally uncritical of Israel, but way less confrontational than Weiner’s statement.

  • Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene More: Alex Pareene
Let me  just add, I said I like the guy…I love the guy. I’m not gay, I just deeply appreciate his actions as a leader, his private life is not for me to judge.