Saturday, May 21, 2011

Enough already!


You and I routinely disagree on many issues, and climate change is a perfect example. Plainly, each of us thinks the other is wrong. But importantly, neither of us believe the other is supporting his position by intentionally lying about the facts. That's as crucial to me as I'm sure it is to you. We wouldn't have maintained this blog for so long if that was not the case. I'm not only willing, but happy to debate the issues with an honest person like yourself. But a liar, no matter what his views may be, deserves no credibility or respect - none whatsoever.

Just lately I've had an epiphany of sorts. It occurred to me that when it comes to politics, there are two sorts of people and the dividing line is absolutely clear: there are those who are willing to lie about the facts to support their positions, and those who are not. Now I suppose a man could justify lying if he believes some outcomes are more important than that they are attained by dishonesty. Call me old fashioned or naive, but I don't believe dishonesty is ever justified. Case in point:

On 5/19, the President gave a major speech on foreign policy. What he had to say about Israel was especially important:

"So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." (my emphasis)

As you are no doubt aware, these last 30 words set off a political firestorm on the Right.

From The American Spectator:

"...Obama is now ready to advocate the next step of his plan to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.

This is absolutely outrageous. There is no way that Israel can be secure, geographically, with the 1967 borders. He knows that. Israel knows that. The world knows that. He may as well have just declared a proxy war against Israel..."

From Fox News:

"Obama, in a sweeping address tackling the uprisings in the Middle East and the stalled peace process, stunned Washington and Jerusalem by endorsing Palestinians' demand for their own state based on the pre-1967 borders. The break with longstanding U.S. policy appeared to immediately aggravate the Israelis, who want the borders of any future Palestinian state determined through negotiations."

Especially egregious, this, from Charles Krauthammer:

"...A new formulation favorable to maximal Arab demands. True, that idea has been the working premise for negotiations since 2000. But no president had ever before publicly and explicitly endorsed the 1967 lines. (!!!!!!)

Even more alarming to Israel is Obama’s omission of previous American assurances to recognize “realities on the ground” in adjusting the 1967 border, meaning U.S. agreement that Israel would incorporate the thickly populated, close-in settlements in any land swap. By omitting this, Obama leaves the impression of indifference to the fate of these settlements. This would be a significant change in U.S. policy and a heavy blow to the Israeli national consensus."

From Orin Hatch:

"Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) announced Friday he would introduce a congressional resolution disapproving of President Obama's stance on Israel's border lines, saying that "threatens Israel's security."

"By calling for a return to the pre-1967 borders, President Obama has directly undermined her," Hatch said of Israel. "Rather than stand by Israel against consistent unprovoked aggression by longtime supporters of terrorism, President Obama is rewarding those who threaten Israel’s very right to exist. This is not only ridiculous, but dangerous." "

I could go on and on - this is just a sample. Just about all the usual right wing pundits, not to mention most of the presumed Republican presidential candidates, congressmen, party leaders, and of course Fox News, as if on cue, condemned the speech as a horrifying sell-out of Israel.

Let's back up a minute and ask if this amazing, spontaneous outburst was factually justified. But more importantly, were the facts easily accessible to those making the accusations?

Jeffrey Goldberg, a Jew, a consistent conservative, and of all things, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Force had this to say:

"I'm amazed at the amount of insta-commentary out there suggesting that the President has proposed something radical and new by declaring that Israel's 1967 borders should define -- with land-swaps -- the borders of a Palestinian state. I'm feeling a certain Groundhog Day effect here. This has been the basic idea for at least 12 years. This is what Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat were talking about at Camp David, and later, at Taba. This is what George W. Bush was talking about with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. So what's the huge deal here? Is there any non-delusional Israeli who doesn't think that the 1967 border won't serve as the rough outline of the new Palestinian state?"

So what was going on here? Was Barak Obama, as Mr. Goldberg said, just re-stating what had been U.S. policy for the last 12 years - and the right-wingers were just misinformed? Or was it Mr. Goldberg himself who was lying about the facts?

Here's an excerpt from the publicly accessible, well known (to all the right wingers), and thoroughly disseminated letter written to Ariel Sharon by George W. Bush on April 14th, 2004:

"As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

---my comment: U.N. Resolution 242, which Mr. Bush was referring to as a basis from which negotiations should start, included the following:

"(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict (i.e. to the 1967 borders);

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."

Steve, its just not plausible to believe at least most of the people making the accusations against Obama were not aware of this clear and succinct strategy outlined and pursued by George W. Bush and everyone else before him.

Go back and compare this excerpt with the 30 lines from Obama's speech:

"We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."

This is precisely the same thing George Bush was talking about - and for that matter, Bill Clinton before him. Even as far back as Reagan, no President advocated a process which has as a goal the end result of Israel returning to its 1967 borders. Yet all presidents, regardless of party, have acknowledged the 1967 borders should serve as a starting point of negotiations - exactly as President Obama said in his speech.

Now if you were a mind reader, you might be able to claim the "mutually agreed swaps" referred to by Obama were not of the same magnitude or nature advocated by W. Bush, Clinton, H.W. Bush and Reagan. But you know, none of Obama's right wing accusers are mind readers. So on what evidence did they base their accusations?

Steve, they don't have any. Or, in other words, they're lying about the facts.

Now I'm willing to accept the opinion that Barak Obama is not the same, staunch ally of Israel that his predecessors were. I don't agree with that opinion, but neither do I consider it dishonest for someone to say it. What I do object to is someone who boldly, consciously lies about the facts in order to support that opinion. This brings me to the whole point of this post...

I consider the entire problem of poor government to be, not the honest differences in philosophy like you and I have, but the differences created and sustained by dishonesty. In other words, a good policy of governance advocated by dishonesty is worse than a bad policy advocated honestly.

Why? I mean, why would not good policies transcend whatever means were employed to enact them? I'll tell you why. You can't rely on a dishonest man. Sooner or later, an honest man who favors a bad policy will have the moral courage to question the effect of that policy and change his mind. A dishonest man is not capable of this. A dishonest man will stake a claim to one position or another and never, never change his mind - regardless of the facts. As I said in a previous post, some people - lots of them in fact - are so afraid of being wrong that they are willing to sacrifice honesty to keep from admitting it.

This is especially true of Our Leaders. And maybe it is as much our fault as it is their's. After all, isn't it true the most suicidal act in politics is to say, "Sorry, I was wrong." ?


P.S. : I apologize for not yet posting a follow on to your most recent, and excellent two posts. I'll work on it. But this last mass expression of political hypocrisy has got me so mad I just had to say something.

1 comment:

  1. As you and I have reviewed in recent posts, the political climate in this country has changed dramatically in recent years (no pun intended).

    I think this is due to a desire to establish – AS A GIVEN – that there are no Absolute notions of Right and Wrong. Because if no position can be “100% Right” and none is “100% Wrong”, then *ultimately) ANYTHING GOES. That is the end result of a self-centered, narcissistic world-view that Actions have No Consequences (or at least no Bad Ones).

    Political dialogue is wrapped up in with supporting the proposition that who can ‘convince’ the most people to stand with him, by whatever means of persuasion can be used will WIN.

    Appeal to Emotions. Appeal to Authority. Appeal to Lies (e.g., if I say something often enough and enough people join with me, it BECOMES the Truth). Abstract notions like Doing the Right Thing become secondary at best. How can virtues like Honesty survive in a climate where Power and Control over others dominates all thought?

    *sigh* That’s where we are. (or "A is A" to quote A. Rand). I see no solution OTHER than getting folks on board with the idea that the End *NEVER* Justifies the Means.

    - Steve