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The Rationale For Romney: A View From Israel

 

About the author: Dr. Martin Sherman served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense establishment. He was a ministerial adviser to Yitzhak Shamir's government and lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations and Strategic Studies. He holds seve ... [read 's FULL BIO]

“A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.” – A passage of disputed origins frequently, but apparently incorrectly, ascribed to Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (1747-1813)

“It was the most memorable time of my life. It was a touching moment because I never thought this day would ever happen. I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car. I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage. You know, if I help him, he’s gonna help me.” – Obama supporter Peggy Joseph, at an election rally, NBC Channel 6 News, October 30, 2008

“Not every person who voted for Obama thinks this [Peggy Joseph’s] way, of course. But a sufficient number of Americans do, leaving us wondering how we change these minds” – Jim Geraghty, National Review Online, March 26, 2012

These three excerpts encapsulate the essence of what the upcoming US presidential elections are about. The choice will be far more fundamental than one between two parties. It will be between two sharply divergent visions of the future of America.

Yes, the issues before the US electorate are myriad and complex. Few of them are clear cut. On many of them, the differences in the positions of the two contenders for the presidency are more a matter of nuance rather than principle, at times more rhetoric than operational substance.

Discerning a dichotomous difference

But despite the complexity, there is nothing ambiguous about the decision the voters will be called upon to make, nor about the historic impact it will have on the destiny of the US. To a large degree, it will in all likelihood determine America’s course for decades to come, both its domestic and foreign policy, including relations with Israel.

Regardless of any ambiguity, even overlap, that there might be in the positions of two contenders on specific issues, there is little difficulty in discerning the dichotomy in the ideological “envelopes” of their political credo, which, much like a postal envelope, determines the destination – and the destiny – of the contents.

In terms of their core concepts, these ideological “envelopes” reflect profoundly opposing points of departure as to the conduct of life in America and its relations with its allies.

The difference is between an approach that emphasizes the promotion of enterprise and one that emphasizes the provision of entitlements; between an attitude that incentivizes industry and one that induces indolence; between an outlook that is clearly respectful of success and one that appears resentful of it; between a belief that encourages self-reliance and individual responsibility, and one that fosters dependency and societal scapegoating.

Distortive demagoguery?

Undoubtedly this black-and-white (no pun intended) categorization will arouse howls of protest. It will be dismissed as shallow, simplistic stereotyping, as distortive demagoguery, as uninformed and unnuanced invective.

But such criticism would be misplaced. For the crude characterization of the overarching parameters of the opposing belief systems of the two contenders provides a far more apt appraisal of what is at stake in the upcoming elections than a detailed analysis of how they propose to deal with specific issues, however weighty, currently on the US national agenda.

America is on the cusp of a metamorphosis of its fundamental essence. It boils down to a choice between two irreconcilable paradigms for the county’s future. This election is about far more than differences of policy.

It is about how America wishes to see itself – now and in the future – and perhaps even more important, about how it does not want to see itself.

It is, therefore, a choice between not only what each contender symbolizes, but, perhaps even more important, what he does not.

Look again at the introductory quote from the enthralled Barack Obama supporter, Peggy Joseph, who envisioned that her support for him would bring her a bunch of free or government-supplied goodies.

Clearly – as conservative columnist Jim Geraghty indicates – not all Obama supporters subscribe to the Peggy Joseph school of thought, but a significant and apparently growing number do. By contrast, it is almost inconceivable that any prospective Romney voter would espouse sentiments remotely similar to those espoused by Ms. Joseph, as free fuel and accommodation are not a component of their political expectations.

Likewise, it is equally inconceivable that any political program presented by Mitt Romney would captivate voters of the ilk of Ms. Joseph since they would in all likelihood not encourage the belief that an expense-free utopia is at hand – but rather that tanks should be filled and mortgage payments met through the fruits of hard work.

See what I mean about the “industry vs indolence” divide I mentioned above? Not convinced? Read on.

Revealing rhetoric?

It is inconceivable that anyone subscribing to the Romney “ideological envelope” would have declared, as Obama recently did at a rally in Virginia, that business owners owe their success to others – primarily the government.

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there…. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” the president said.

Romney’s response could not have been more to the point: “I don’t think anyone could have said what he said who had actually started a business or been in a business…. Do we believe in an America that is great because of government or do we believe in an America that is great because of free people allowed to pursue their dreams and build their future?”

Obama is, of course, correct when he says that businesses profit from infrastructures built by government: “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridge,” he said.

However, the Soviet Union also had a government that built roads and bridges and dams, and even pioneered manned space travel, none of which saved it from utter collapse.

In an incisive response, former deputy assistant secretary David Cohen makes this telling point:

“Does the president really think that ‘this unbelievable American system’ is based upon the fact that we use public funds to build roads and bridges? If I may respond to the president by paraphrasing his own words: ‘Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of countries out there that use public funds to build roads and bridge. But none of those other countries has been as successful as the United States of America, so it must be something else that accounts for this unbelievable American system.’”

So as Romney asks: “Do we believe in an America that is great because of government or do we believe in an America that is great because of free people allowed to pursue their dreams and build their future?”

A question of context?

Although Obama’s remarks were enthusiastically received by his audience at the rally in Virginia, it soon emerged that they were highly offensive to the millions of hardworking small-business owners on whom the US depends to create jobs.

Not unsurprisingly, the Obama camp began to claim that critics were taking his “words about small business out of context.”

But these endeavors are, at best, unpersuasive. For as Cohen observes, “It is irrelevant whether ‘you didn’t build that’ refers to an entrepreneur’s business [the most logical interpretation] or to the roads and bridges that were used by that business.”

Whichever way you slice them, “The president’s remarks were clearly a contemptuous put-down of small-business owners who, in the president’s view, want to take too much credit for their own success,” Cohen said.

For anyone – other than the blatantly biased – who watched the video recording of the address, it is difficult to dispute Cohen’s appraisal that “he mocks small businessmen who have the gall to think they succeeded because they were ‘so smart’ or ‘worked harder than everybody else.’”

It is not easy to escape his caustic conclusion: “The point of the president’s remarks was not to celebrate the courage, hard work and vision that it takes to make a business successful. Rather, the point was to admonish successful small-business owners not to get too full of themselves, not to think that they’re so special. And along the way, he managed to denigrate the importance of intelligence and hard work.”

All of which underscores the distinction I drew earlier between ideological approaches that “are respectful of success” and those which “are resentful of it.”

Formative influences, political proclivities

In many ways, the election of Obama in 2008 was a watershed. But this was not so much because for the first time a man of color was elected to the US’s highest office and the world’s most powerful position.

Rather, it was a watershed because for the first time, the person elected was someone whose political credo coalesced in an environment where many of its formative influences (both personalities and ideologies), and the resultant allegiances and political proclivities, differed sharply (arguably antithetically) in substance and sentiment from those that historically made America America.

It would be wildly unrealistic therefore to assume that these differences would not translate into an interpretation of US interests, and hence a political agenda, both domestic and foreign, that differs sharply – even antithetically – relative to how they were viewed and pursued in the past.

And indeed, it certainly appears they have. I have tried to illustrate this briefly in the domestic sphere, but in the sphere of foreign relations matters are if anything more disturbing.

The foreign policy front

Deep concerns about Obama’s perspective on conducting US foreign policy – certainly from the Israeli standpoint – arose very early in his presidency. In his June 2009 Muslim outreach speech in Cairo he declared: “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

Clearly, this is a proclamation that is extremely difficult to reconcile with reality. After all, life in America as governed by the US Constitution is the opposite of life under Islam as governed by Shari’a – particularly with regard to “tolerance and dignity of others.”

It is a parallel that Romney would be highly unlikely to draw.

Romney’s upcoming high-profile visit to Israel accentuates the far-ranging differences with Obama.

True, Obama did make a pre-presidential visit to the country in 2008, but the memories of that have been erased by his conspicuous absence since, particularly in light of frequent visits to numerous Arab countries in the region and his publicly sour relationship with Binyamin Netanyahu.

True, Obama can point to instances where his administration acted assertively to preserve and promote Israeli interests on a number of critical issues.

However, the more circumspect – or cynical – might suggest that this pro-Israel largesse should not be ascribed to any favorable change in sentiment toward Israel.

Rather, it should be seen as a result of growing concern over the consequences of a Jewish voter backlash, fueled by what many considered a grossly biased approach toward Israel.

Even the stalwart Obama supporter pundit Peter Beinart has complained that Obama has abandoned his originally “progressive” (read “Palestinian-compliant”) agenda toward Israel because of pressure from mainstream US Jewish groups.

Thus for Israel, the prospect of a White House incumbent with an inherent affinity for Israel’s adversaries and unshackled by considerations of reelection is one that must be viewed with the utmost gravity.

Reinventing or uninventing America

These are dark times for America – high unemployment rates, aging and increasingly uncompetitive infrastructures, soaring deficits, and almost zero interest rates. Together these ailments comprise a predicament that leaves policy-makers almost “out of bullets.”

Honed managerial skill alone will not suffice.

What America needs now is a new (or rather a renewed) vision of itself. Over the last four years America has been subjected to policies that appear geared more to unmaking her than remaking her, of deconstructing her rather than reconstructing her. Obama has left the nation with faded hope and failed change.

America is at a fateful crossroads. It can choose one of two paths: To reinvent itself or to uninvent itself. Mitt Romney needs to seize the moment and lead his country along the former and away from the latter.

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  • Todd Meyer

    Jan,
    Why is this the battle cry of all liberals? (Tax Cuts for the Rich) Total class warfare. I live in a state that has been run but Dems for as long as I have been alive, California, and it has been run into the ground by your so-called progressive thinking. Liberals have controlled our public schools, so that they have become run down and broke. They lay off great teachers and keep the burned out teachers. Of course lobs are beholden to unions. There is no way you can get a group of people already footing the tax bill to pay more and ask them to grow the economy at the same time. You need to spend time listening to Thomas Sowell or Milton Friedman. President Obama failed on his promise to unite people. And people like you perpetuate the divide.

    • The “divide” is ideological, Todd, although there are many who want you to believe it is only financial. In that the “divide” is ideological, it necessitates its own perpetuation as long as the ideologies are diametrically opposed. This is reality: Are you going to vote for Socialism and Islam, or are you going to vote American for Freedom and Liberty? That is the only answer I care to hear from anyone, because it really is that simple.

  • Jim Capobianco

    It’s so hard to believe that people are that ignorant to think a vote for someone will cause him to pay for your gas or allow you NOT to pay your debts… And then they have the nerve to say Republicans are all rich and about supporting the rich. The most I’ve ever made is 75k a year and that was after busting my butt for 8 yrs at a company and I started at 30k entry level with experience. Now I’m unemployed due to 2 surgeries on my neck and cronic pain that has me on pain meds. I’m not on any govt bailouts, because my wife makes too much, I applied for help from the VA and my wife makes about 10-20% more than they say we should to get help with just prescriptions.
    I will still vote Obama out, why he’s the wrong man for the job. Yes the healthcare system in this country needs some fixing. Obummercare isn’t the answer. How about real reform people, insurance costs keep going up, they need to be reduced, I worked in the insurance industry, they go up because of fraud, cost of doing business keeps going up (something that causes everything to go up in price). We (Americans) need to pull our heads out of our butts and stop being stupid. I can’t afford the extra taxes in Obummercare, and I’m not in poverty level per govt figures.
    We need real answers and the people that have been in congress on both sides for more than 3 terms aren’t doing it. We need business men and women in Congress not lawyers or doctors that never ran a business.
    Sorry for ranting, but I get sooo frustrated with liberals and career politicians.
    Jan please don’t ever give up your fight to support our constitution and rid the US of this plague of Obama, Pelosi and their lackeys.

  • When Obama says, “We don’t want to go back to the Bush policies of the past, we want to move “Forward!” (his new campaign slogan) You have to realize what he is referring to. The only answer to this is: You mean Capatalism? That is our system here is the United States Mr. Obama, and it has worked for the last 236 years! If you don’t love it, you can leave it!!

    • /well, Mr. Griffith, I sure Agree with you on the fact that if Obama doesn’t Love America, he should Leave. This has been a Great Nation for all those years and our Forefathers were not Stupid men; when they wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – which Obama has totally ignored. So, I sure wish he would Leave and by God’s Grace at election time…he will (at least leave the Presidential Office.)

  • Solo

    What I can’t understand is the ignorance of liberals who say that Romney didn’t pay taxes and they actually believe this…? If Romney did not pay in taxes what was required of him, Obama would have the IRS all over him..PERIOD!! They honestly have no answer when you give them that response…Who in their right mind would give anymore to the Feds than what was required? It will be a tough road because Obama has put so many more on the welfare roles which pretty much enslaves them to the govt and the democrats…We as patriots must donate as much money and time as we can to help…

    • Obama can raise the economy in an instant that he can meet, but all that is foreign aid, which all Arab societies together with Indonesia under the feet of Islam itself. I will say here that when Obama falls, then the political game both for the Islamists of the world with Indonesia will raise the price of oil. But do not be afraid that the brothers and sisters of the Pacific can help with it, while we (Maluku and West Papua) irrespective of Islamic colonial Indonesia, with our foundation, namely: international human rights law and the real history of the world otherwise. American Christians must rise from the truth.

  • Dear Doctor Sherman,

    What the heck did you just say? Maybe you should learn some small words to embelish the big ones:)

  • Obama is a Marxist who hates Capitalism. When his mother left him in Hawaii and she went back to Indonesia, she stipulated that Obama should visit with Frank Marshall Davis several times a week (for indoctrination?). Frank Marshall Davis (Frank mentioned 22 times in Obama’s book) was a card-carrying communist in Hawaii. That tells you Hussein Obama’s true agenda in destroying America!