Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Chutzpah of Hope

For the last five minutes I have been on the verge of tears. I simply cannot get over the latest news alerts I am reading on the web. Before that I received an email from a dear friend, a prominent Obama fundraiser, the one who yanked me onto the Obama bandwagon around six months ago. He sent me this from the AP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barack Obama has effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, based on an Associated Press tally of convention delegates.

The tally put Obama over the top Tuesday, ahead of the results from the day's final primaries in Montana and South Dakota. The Illinois senator becomes the first black candidate ever to lead his party into a fall campaign for the White House. Obama outlasted former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in a historic contest and now faces Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona for the presidency.

I never thought I would feel this way again about a political victory. I have been disappointed so many times in the past – usually when the candidate I favored won! Since the assassination of Rabin, I have lived in one long nightmare – made livable only by the fellowship of good people around the world, Jews, Palestinians, and all the rest. In Israel our politicians wallow in corruption, sexual harrassment, rapaciousness, superciliousness, chutzpah.. Rabin was no angel – but look who has come after him.

Sure, I know that I will be disappointed when Obama becomes president. I certainly have no illusions about Obama's Middle East policy. And I will be upset by his speech before AIPAC on Wednesday.

But for the first time in years I have hope. You see, I have read both of Obama's books – books that he actually wrote. His intelligence shines through on every page. When I talk to my Jewish friends, especially in Israel, about Obama, it turns out they know virtually nothing about him. It is always, Iran, blah-blah-blah, Reverand Wright, blah, blah, blah, middle-name Hussein, blah, blah, blah. I have yet to meet somebody who is a Democrat, who knows a lot about Obama, and who doesn't support him – unless she is a woman with first loyalties to Hillary (which I understand totally.) All right, that last line was not fair There are folks who genuinely like Hillary, and I would have supported her for president. But Senator Clinton, you are no Barack Obama.

Yes, there are many reasons to predict a McCain victory in the Fall. If you don't know them, Shmuel Rosner will be happy to tell you them. But I am hopeful. A lousy economy, an unpopular sitting president, a dumb and immoral war that was mightily botched with no end in sight…one would have to go way back in history to find circumstances so propitious for change.

And my fundraiser friend hasn't been wrong yet. He was part of Obama's brilliant campaign, and he guarantees a brilliant strategy for the Fall. I asked him two weeks ago during shul, and within earshot of Joe Lieberman, what does Obama plan to do against an aggressive and vicious McCain campaign. "Jerry," he told me "We are going to flatten McCain like a pancake. He won't know what hit him." All right, so maybe he is exaggerating. Maybe it won't be a landslide victory, or even a pretty one. But Obama is going to do it.

I am getting my hankie ready for the inaugural speech. I cannot wait to hear the Chief Justice swear in Barack HUSSEIN Obama. What a day that will be for America! What a day that will be for the world!


Anonymous said...

It's been such a long, hard fought primary that I forgot to get excited about tonight. Thanks for reminding me.

I'm also so on guard & apprehensive about the slime to come that this is another reason I refuse to get too cocky or emotional.

I wish I could be there with you & Phil at AIPAC. We could have such a good time trashing the place (not literally). Sort of like the way Gawker writes about celebrities.

Leon may be liberal on domestic issues but he hasn't had a liberal thought about Israeli politics prob. since 1968 if then.

Jerry Haber said...

One correction. I am in Jerusalem and not in DC now. Even if I were, wild broncos couldn't drag me to AIPAC. Bravo to Phil for being able to sit through the bull sessions.

As for Wieseltier on Israel -- my take is that he is a solid liberal hawk: against the settlements and the occupation, but a "what-can-you-do-when-the-partner-is-weak-and-ineffectual?" kind of guy.

I still distinguish between liberal hawks and neocons, even if there is obviously a convergence on such issues such as interventions,Islamophobia, etc.

Anonymous said...

Some points to remember about Obama:
(1) He lost 2 of the 3 primaries this week (Puerto Rico and South Dakota) and he has lost most of the primaries of the last couple of months. Thus, instead of gathering steam as he approached the magic number of delegates, he started running out of steam. South Dakota is the type of state he has ran well in, generally conservative (regarding the entire population, not just the Democrats) with a small black population, yet he still lost it.

(2) A poll reported on Israel radio several weeks ago said that 19% of Americans will not vote for a black man for President. This is no doubt an underestimate because it is politically incorrect to admit that to other people. Considering how close many elections are, this is a GIGANTIC handicap for Obama to operate under.

(3) In West Virginia, a state Hillary won a big victory in, HALF of those Democrats who vote polled said they would NOT vote for Obama.
Another gigantic handicap.

(4) McCain is not a member of Bush's Administration (as would be an incumbent Vice President who is running to succeed his boss like was the case with Al Gore) and so he can afford to distance himself from Bush.

(5) People who are unhappy with the Bush Administration can vote for McCain for President and a Democrat for Congress and Senate. I think McCain will win with the Democrats picking up seats in both Houses of Congress.

(6) American casualties in Iraq reached their lowest level since the invasion in 2003. IF this trend keeps up, it is unclear how much of an effect Iraq will play in the campaign. Don't forget also that, unlike in the case of Vietnam, the army is not a conscript one so emotions are just not as high.

(7) Obama has a lot of negatives hanging over him besides the racial one - lack of experience, his relationship with Rev. Wright which bothers a lot of people, his lack of a clear agenda (except to give everyone "hope"), his close relationship with a former Weatherman radical, his super-liberal voting record and associations with other super-liberals.

Bottom line---I don't see any possiblity of Obama winning. I think a black could be elected IF he was conservative. Same with a woman, but voters are cautious about making too much history at one time.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why people with progressive opinions get so excited about Obama. Yes, he's got an interesting background, but it seems to me that he has a good politician's gift of making some people (in this case, lefties) think he's on their side when he isn't. Or at least he's given no indication of it. It's hard to see how he could put any pressure on Israel given all the pandering he's done so far.

I much prefer him to McCain, but it's always lesser of two evil voting when November rolls around. I'll vote for him, but my expectations are very very low. In a way I'd almost prefer Hillary--at least I'd know that progressives would all be united in opposition to her when she does something despicable in foreign policy. I get the feeling that with Obama some people (though not you) are going to make excuses for him.

It'll be nice if he turns out better than I expect, but there's no indication of anything like that yet--just some wildly overpraised speeches.


Jerry Haber said...


OK, sorry for the emotion. But I am not dewy-eyed. Did you read my post, "Why I Still Support Obama?"

That seems to me to reflect some progressive thinking about Obama. No grand illusions, but hope for a change in tone.

To change American policy on Israel, one would have to change America's thinking on Israel. That is what a lot of us are trying to do. It may take another sixty years.

Your point about cutting Obama slack on foreign policy is a good one. He may be a liberal interventionist, for example, and what will his progressive supporters do?

That was the problem of the other Barak, when he was prime minster of Israel. America cut him enormous slack (see Aaron Miller's book) because he was "pro-peace". Had Bibi been in charge, there may not have been an intifada al-aqsa, certainly not of that magnitude.

But, as you point out, you vote for the lesser of two evils. Had a centrist democrat been in the White House, we wouldn't be in Iraq today

My modest hopes are that people like Miller and Kurtzer have some influence on the administration. They are liberal Zionists, but wax nostalgiac about George H. W. Bush and Jim Baker, and the pressure they put on Bush.