Mitt Romney’s return last week from overseas fundraising should signal to the GOP that, at home and abroad, their presumed candidate for November is out of his league.
Romney is not only running against his record as governor of Massachusetts. He is also running against the record of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom I dub the Frazier/Monroe backcourt of American politics.
Mr. Romney’s embrace of Paul Ryan as his running mate and Ryan’s House budget to cut as much as 20 percent in funding to education and turn Medicaid into a free market voucher program, is a sign that he is not the moderate he was in Massachusetts. His overlords must know by now that his bullish overseas rhetoric signals a lack of understanding for the delicate situations he will encounter should he be president. Disregard the gaffe in London and the sass of one of his aides to the press in Poland. Focus instead on his trip to Israel.
In May of 1948, President Truman recognized the State of Israel. Truman was the first head of state to do so and our two nations have had a kinship ever since. Support for Israel has grown in the United States, particularly from the Republicans since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
As an issue of human rights, the American Left was the first great defender of Israel. Since 1980, a more blind and less critical support has come from the war hawks and the religious right, creating a different bond between our nations. In this presidential election year, sad to say, the issue of who is a greater asset to Israel is again on the scorecard for American voters.
Should this bother Americans?
Yes, for the simple fact that Israel does not have a vote in the US Congress. Israel is a sovereign nation, not a state of this union. Puerto Rico, should they so choose, may have dibs on being the 51st state, but not Israel.
While we may be at war with combatants who have a wish for the Israel’s destruction, the real war we are fighting is ignorance within the emerging Islamic world, not the Islamic world itself. Israeli’s know this first-hand, though it is getting harder to separate faith from nation state friendships when we allow friends such as Israel, with its current leadership, to set terms of our foreign policy. Still, we must try and engage our friends.
In the case of Iran, Israeli leaders have their sights set on bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities. From Israel’s perspective, I more than empathize. From the United States’ perspective, it’s not so simple. The problem is that, no matter what happens, Israeli leaders know that we will stand beside them, even when it is against our better judgement or national interest.
Secretary Clinton’s role in defense of Israel has been large. In a region where any effort at resolution is left open to chance, she has orchestrated a multinational trade embargo on Iran that has crippled its economy. Her embargo partners’ mutual hope is the cessation, without military force, of what most perceive is a build up of nuclear weapons capacity. In using verbal diplomacy backed with the threat of force, she has set a stage whereby Iran has all the options for change without seeing the option of battle only.
The United State’s administration’s stand on Iran does not sit well with some of Israel’s leaders. Many, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, feel that striking Iran first is the best defense. Moreover, many voters in the U.S. view Secretary Clinton and the president as un-American for not showing proper lockstep allegiance to a friend, Israel.
Meanwhile, Romney told a favorable Israeli audience that “the hand of Providence” was what made the Israelis a success in the Middle East before provocatively describing Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv, as the capital of Israel. Lastly, Romney made light of the idea that we in the United States might learn a thing or two from the Israeli health care system.
To begin with, it has long been my understanding that our kinship with Israel has everything to with republic, not Providence of faith. Ours is a kinship of purpose, not simply a kinship of people. Our belief in Israel has to do with that nation’s ability to function as an open society, unlike Iran, and whose dynamism, like ours, is a result of that openness. Unlike Obama, Romney, in his seemingly limited understanding of our kinship, has concentrated on faith without nuance and his perceptions of Jewry in ignorantly pandering to Israeli citizens Jewishness.
As well, we know this about Israel’s health care system: that it is compulsory and publicly underwritten. While insurance coverage is not total, it has strict government price controls and is only eight percent of Israel’s GDP where ours is 18 percent. And so, I must ask Romney what else he might do to emulate the Israeli plan other what he has done in Massachusetts?
It has become du jour for Republicans to shill for Israel as it suits their own mission and that of the Likud Party. Still, neither speak for Israel or the United States as a whole. One of the beauty’s of Israel, unlike its neighbors in the Middle East, is a willing divergence of thought within the populace. Secretary Clinton and the president do not underestimate the Israeli’s capacity to think nor do they fear a public disagreement among friends.
Any question of the president’s support for Israel was recently answered by Edgar Bronfman, former head of the World Jewish Congress, in his letter published in Haaretz. He cites time and again, where Obama’s support of Israel is upstanding and bodes well for Israel’s future. He also reminds the reader that US aid to Israel is at its highest level ever. To quote Bronfman, “charlatans scream. They tell you what you want to hear and call other people names. Friends and leaders need not rely on boisterous bravado. They produce results and act on principle.”
So please, Democratic voters take courage. Stop the hand wringing and concentrate on getting out the vote. For those voters who feel that the President has sold Israel down the river, think again and heed the words of Bronfman.
When Earl Monroe came up from Baltimore to join Walt Frazier in the New York Knick backcourt, it was said that team would need two basketballs to compete as Monroe was then the best one-on-one player in the NBA. Such fears were quickly allayed as Frazier and Monroe became what some call the best backcourt ever.
Like Frazier and Monroe, whose play was pure poetry in motion, Obama and Clinton and their record of teamwork has been similarly seamless.
Candidate Romney is running against his own record as a moderate in Massachusetts, the most liberal state in the Union. He is running against Secretary Clinton, who has won back old friends and gained new ones too, in advancing the American cause. And, he is running against a president who has calmly steered a ship of state through three years of November like storms on Lake Superior. He hasn’t been great but he has been good. He’s taken the public beatings to allow those in his cabinet, like Secretary Clinton, to perform brilliantly in service to this nation.
And remember voters, with Frazier and Monroe, the Knicks beat the Lakers for a second time to win the championship in1973.