The General Election Fight At AIPAC
On Monday, John McCain addressed the AIPAC conference (video is here). McCain attacked early, often, and hyper-aggressively, attempting to portray Obama as a dangerously inexperienced, pacifistic simpleton ready to sign over control of the Middle East to Iran. One of … Read More
On Monday, John McCain addressed the AIPAC conference (video is here). McCain attacked early, often, and hyper-aggressively, attempting to portray Obama as a dangerously inexperienced, pacifistic simpleton ready to sign over control of the Middle East to Iran. One of McCain's isolated positive notes was a proposal for large-scale global divestment from Iran by both governments and private firms.
This morning, Barack Obama took the podium at AIPAC and counterattacked. Substantively, he positioned himself squarely on the center-right of Israeli foreign policy views, reiterating an unwavering commitment to Israeli security and to the American-Israeli alliance, and pledged to work towards peace through a two-state solution in which the status of Israel as a Jewish state with an undivided Jerusalem as its capital is non-negotiable. He proposed a new $30 billion in annual aid to Israel that would not be tied to aid for any other country. Attacking the Bush administration from the right for pushing for elections in Palestine that Hamas was bound to win, he swore that in his administration, there would be no room for terrorists at the negotiating table. (See Michael Walzer here on the difference between negotiating with adversarial states and terrorist organizations; it's really not as complicated distinction as some people have decided to believe it is.)
He also attacked both Bush and John McCain from the right for pursuing a war policy that has vastly amplified Iranian power (and repeated the "wipe off the map" lie himself; I really don't get why Ahmadinejad-bashing can't be faithful to things Ahmadinejad has said). Attempting to drastically shift the terms and assumptions of the debate over Iran and his own positon, he argued that "[t]here's no greater threat to Israel or to the peace and stability of the region than Iran…The danger from Iran is grave and real and my goal will be to eliminate this threat."
In what's sure to be a preview of the general election debate, he framed diplomatic engagement as "tough" and as the policy of a strong, confident nation — implicitly (and rightfully) calling McCain, Lieberman et al. chickens. And he called out McCain's bluster on Iran-divestment, noting that he had proposed just such a bill a year ago, which McCain voted against.
As with most Obama speeches, the oratorical presentation greatly outstripped the same language on the page. He went off-script at several points, particularly discussing the historic ties between the African-American and Jewish-American communities, the outsized role the latter played in the civil rights movement (and his own personal debt to Jewish civil rights activists), reaching a crescendo by recalling [from my notes] "Jewish-Americans like Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who were willing to fight and die alongside an African-American." At both the beginning and end of the speech, he received a sustained, loud, standing ovation. Several hours later, the Orthodox Union confirmed him as glatt.
While somewhere else, Joe Lieberman, speaking on behalf of the McCain camp, intoned lugubriously that "Senator Obama argued today that American foreign policy in recent years has essentially sort of strengthened Iran. At one point he almost seemed to suggest it helped elect Ahmedinejad and has made Israel less safe, and I disagree with that." Got it. Lieberman denies that the invasion of Iraq, deposition of Iran's most significant regional enemy, and establishment of a Shia-dominated government beholden to Iran "sort of" strengthened Iran. Not even "sort of"? It seems the McCain campaign is going to use the DSM-IV as a playbook.