Monday, June 09, 2008

Yes, we can – pander.

By William Fisher

Barack Obama’s recent speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Council – AIPAC – dragged many of his supporters back from denial to political reality.

These Obamakins are hungry to believe his candidacy signals an authentic change in how politicians behave and the way American politics are run.

They’ve had it with the slice-and-dice-say-and-do-anything-to-win Karl Rove playbook. They’re weary of political messages that tell us more about focus groups than about candidates. They’re disgusted with the dumbing down of our country’s political discourse.

And after eight years of George W. Bush, who could blame them?

But Barack’s AIPAC speech left many of them wondering if they were perhaps a tad na├»ve.

Much of what the Illinois Senator told his Jewish-American audience in Miami was totally predictable. He confirmed America’s everlasting friendship with Israel. He vowed we would always be there to protect the security of the Middle East’s only democracy. He pledged his allegiance to a two-state solution.

But he went further. He said Israel should always be a Jewish state – a thumb in the eye of Palestinians pushing their right of return. And he pledged that Jerusalem would always be the capital of Israel and that it would be undivided. That was an even bigger thumb in the eye.

These were inflammatory – and unnecessary – promises we would expect from a novice or an ideologue – or a politician pandering to a key constituency.

The next American president will have to lead our efforts to play honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This is a role only the U.S. can play because there is no other nation that has our relationship of trust with Israel.

Hopefully, if Sen. Obama wins the election, he won’t wait until the last year of his presidency to re-start the peace process. But whenever he starts, America’s legitimacy and credibility as an honest broker won’t be helped by his over-the-top and gratuitous remarks.

Because honest and even-handed negotiations can’t be enhanced by trashing what one side or the other considers a core position. Even if it plays well in Miami.

What would we be calling these remarks if they came from John McCain? Right – pandering 101!

But what can we call them if they come from the guy who has staked his political future – and ours -- on the promise of change?

How about sad?