Fear and Blame, as Policy

June 19, 2015

Curating on Wednesdays—71 weeks without a miss, I’m pretty sure—gives me a chance to share with you what others have written. Alas—a word I’ve overused to many times—life happens, and this Friday post depends primarily on what others have written.

I stay away from Israel generally, as my life has all of the tsouris it needs right now. That said, in the last few days my friend Larry Gellman has shared pieces by Peter Beinart for Haaretz, J.J. Goldberg for the Forward (where a great-uncle of mine was what would be, today, the CFO, 85 years ago), and Jeremy Ben-Ami (the President of J Street), whose piece also appeared in Haaretz. When I read the three columns—all articulate, fact and content-based rebuttals of a piece which Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States (who is respected by all three writers)—I was struck by how well Barack Obama opponents have made him “the other.” His Middle East policies are more favorable to Israel than those of all his predecessors, including the Bushes and RR.

Peter Beinart is as knowledgeable a Middle East observer as I’m aware of. He wrapped up his piece for Haaretz thusly:

[American Jewish leaders] real position, like Oren’s, is simple: The United States should back Israel no matter what. The issues themselves are secondary. The test of whether America is a good ally is whether it gives Israel unstinting support irrespective of what Israel does.

What’s remarkable isn’t that Obama failed that test. It’s that anyone who claims to care about American interests would want him to pass.

Last night, catching up, I read Hampered Brilliance, a Garry Wills’ review of Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage by retired Congressman Barney Frank. Mr. Wills is a great, great writer, and the big takeaway here is that we have wasted so, so much by making life harder for people who make us uncomfortable. Barney Frank is fallible, for sure, but he’s also brilliant. He managed to contribute at a very high level. Many others have not had those opportunities, and we all lose when our society makes sexual orientation a challenge for many people. We’ve moved forward in the past 15 years, but we’ve got lots more ground to cover, before sexual orientation matters not at all.

Finally, and as we await the decision in King v. Burwell, the Affordable Care Act case, Robert Pear wrote Top Plaintiff in Health Subsidies Case Awaits Edict Unperturbed for the New York Times. The article relies heavily on an interview with David M. King. The big takeaway? Mr. King does not fret about the potential for lost subsidies, at least as they relate to him, because as a veteran he’s eligible for VA care. And for others he relies on his attorney’s assurance that it’ll get worked out, somehow.

There’s a common thread to the hubbub about Ambassador Oren’s piece, Barney Frank, and Mr. King. Unfortunately, for too many people in our country appearances trump substance. Be for Israel, pass the bagels, please. No homos allowed. And whatever on standing and all that, we’ve got to repeal and replace Obamacare. no deep thinking allowed!

I can’t sum up my thoughts nearly as well as Michael Douglas did, playing an American president. I’ve quoted his speech before, but his final words deserve an appearance now and again (with a touch of editing):

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you [my opponent] is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it.


One Response to Fear and Blame, as Policy

Leave a Reply