Tactics and Substance in the 2004 Elections GoogleNews: Howard Dean

October 13, 2003

by J

Another Single Issue Voter

Billmon has yanked his endorsement of Dean because he didn't like Dean's answer on CNN about Israel bombing Syria.
So I'm un-endorsing him. I could spend a lot of time and effort trying to explain why this one, single issue is so important to me it would cause me to do a political 180 on a presidential candidate, but I'm not really in the mood. Suffice it to say that whatever else I like or admire about Dean -- and there are some things -- they weren't enough to persuade me to endorse him before the Israel issue came up, and they're not enough to keep me endorsing him now.

I suppose America's strange and unhealthy relationship with Israel is just one of those disasters-waiting-to-happen that won't change until the disaster really does happen. Maybe the Iraq War will be that disaster and maybe it won't. But it's obvious the Democratic Party isn't going to change until it has to, and right now it doesn't have to. In fact the incentives are all on the other side.
The Middle East is not something I'm very informed about. I have run into some of the attitudes described in the comments thread to Billmon's post.
Night before last I was at my Aunt's house and my uncle (an Israeli) offered me some Israeli wine. Upon examining the bottle I discovered it was from the Golan Heights and cracked a good natured joke about it actually being Syrian wine. It shouldn't have surprised me much but it ruined the evening. I was called a facist, murderer and many more things. My Uncle openly advocates ethnic cleansing in the territories as the only solution. And, oddly, I am considered the radical in the family. But I digress; The majority of the people in the house were intelligent educated liberal moderates but any critique of Israel quickly becomes equated to supporting blowing up women and children (I guess the men aren't that important). What is the implication of this story? How does it relate to Dean's statment? I'll let the reader decide what to take from my story.
I tend to believe that on this issue, as on the issue of gay marriage, what's going on here is as described in the following comments:
there are lots of times when you can take a stand and draw the debate towards your position, and there are lots of times when taking a stand prematurely just casts you into the wilderness.

Since we don't have crystal balls, one must guess which situation is which. Most politicians side too much on the side of caution and don't lead when they could. I think Dean strikes the right balance far more than any of the others.

Courage is different from foolhardiness. - jd in nyc

I may be giving him too much credit, but I think that Dean's previous 'even-handed' comment may have been a calculated signal. It would go along with his latest comment being the mildest/most qualified of the [electable] candidates statements of support for Israel's action (something I haven't checked myself but am trusting previous posters about).

Of course he can't come out with a ground-breaking, peace-movement-approved mideast policy in the middle of the campaign and expect to win. But consider: Dean's wife is Jewish, and he has some [other] ties to relatively moderate elements of the American Jewish community. Given the Likud-Neocon alliance and its ugly results, smart folks in that set may recognize that, if events continue to deteriorate in the mideast, eventually the Special Relationship will come under fire. I know this particular topic gets polarized REAL fast, but we need to think here about that old 'art of the possible' stuff. Moral purity will not help us change the realities on the ground. - stevelu

In this crazy, competitive, adversarial country where the media automatically stomps of any new ideas with both feet, we are reduced to listening for tiny hints of what our candidate may do if elected. It could be that the liberals are not as intelligent as the conservatives at playing this game. I mean the supergreens deserted Gore, who would undoubtedly have been the greenest president ever (Ralph Nader never wrote a passionate book on the subject.) because he didn't talk green enough for them, while the Republican right all gathered around their (wink, wink) centrist candidate. I'm still for Dean and hoping he (wink, wink) will do better than the others once he has a chance. - James in DC

Posted by J at October 13, 2003 07:00 AM

I just posted this over at bilmon,

Howdy Bilmon, My thoughts on your un-endors'nstuff of Dean.

You supported the Afghan war right? I'll quote you here

"I supported that war, though I hated every minute of it. I supported it because I thought the evidence was overwhelming that Afghanistan has been used to stage a barbaric attack against the United States, and because I don't think international law requires Americans to submit meekly to slaughter."

Using your logic, if Israel did indeed have intelligence that Syria was a 'staging ground' for attacks against civilians in Haifa, you would support Israel's action right?

If you hate Israel, that's cool -just don't try to rationalize Dean's statement as letting you down in some way when according to your own words.. you should agree with him.

Posted by: llamasonic at October 13, 2003 01:37 PM

And at Billmon, I responded to you llamasonic:
"Contrary to Huntington
[author of "The Clash of
Civilizations and the Remaking of World
Order"], I think that the fault line does not
run between the civilizations but within them.
Muslim civilization, too, is split within. Our
interest, as Israeli leftists, is to strengthen
as far as possible the Westernizing thrust
within Arab society, which is fighting for its
life. We have an interest in disintegrating
this anti-feminine apartheid.

llamasonic at October 13, 2003 01:31 PM , you seemingly fell again into the the trap of not distinguishing between a justified harsh critique of Israels Ultra-Right-Wing policies of waging war, and the right of existence for the state of Israel!
To quote you: "If you hate Israel, that's cool"!
Yet, a harsh critique of the NeoCon's war-mongering fascist agenda is not a sign of hating the USA and all it's citizens either. You have to stay clear and prcise, llamasonic.

Noone has said or would think of "hating Israel" around here - that is just hogwash.

To side with the Israeli left, supporting their realistic PEACEPLAN in all their KEYPOINTS TOWARD A TREATY does not mean to "hate Israel". Saying so reminds of fascist NeoCon falsities, and remove the argument from a discourse of reason. I pity that.

Contrary to any simplistic assertions, the fault line is not along Israel-Haters against Israel, but it runs along North American Left, International Left, Israeli left, against the global Ultra-Right-Wing forces. It is simple as that.

Posted by: Werner Thomas at October 13, 2003 04:29 PM

Recommended Reading:

The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir
The Politics of Truth... A Diplomat's Memoir

Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush
Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush

Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke
Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror

LIES by Al Franken
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right

The Great Unraveling
The Great Unraveling

The Great Big Book of Tomorrow
The Great Big Book of Tomorrow

Clinton Wars
The Clinton Wars

Blinded by the Right
Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat

Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture

Living History

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton

John Adams

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation

Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

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