The president’s Poland gaffe at the Medal of Freedom award ceremony has got the most attention, but one must also look at what transpired later the same day. After the president finished awarding the Medal of Freedom on Tuesday to various recipients, many of them Jewish, he met privately with a group of Conservative Jewish rabbis and Jewish community leaders. The Israeli paper Haaretz reported that after the president reiterated his concern for Israel’s security, he said the following:
There were some questions directed at the presidents concerning his thoughts on the role of religious leaders in a more civil political dialogue, which then lead to the inevitable question — how does he feels about Israel? Obama joked that Lew always warns him it will get to “the kishkes question.”
“Rather than describe how deeply I care about Israel, I want to be blunt about how we got here,” Obama said, reminding his guests that he had so many Jewish friends in Chicago at the beginning of his political career that he was accused of being a puppet of the Israel lobby.
The answer, as you pause to consider it, reveals the reality of Barack Obama’s world. Let us take the last sentence first. If anyone accused Obama of being “a puppet of the Israel lobby,” it was the same left-wing friends and black nationalists who supported him when they assumed once he got in office he would be an advocate for the Palestinians. We all know that his friend Rashid Khalidi had publicly expressed just such sentiments, and had stated that he was disappointed that the realities of politics had made Obama, once he became president, turn away from promises Khalidi said he had once made.
There is a reason, after all, why The Los Angeles Times, as Roger L. Simon has often reminded us, has not released the video of what Barack Obama said at the tribute going-away event for Khalidi as he left Chicago for New York City and his position at Columbia University. And of course, later Obama’s pastor in Chicago, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, said that “the Jewish vote, the A-I-P-A-C vote, that’s controlling him, that would not let him send representation to the Darfur Review Conference, that’s talking this craziness on this trip, cause they’re Zionists, they would not let him talk to someone who calls a spade what it is.”
Now let us look at the first part of the president’s statement, about his claim that “he had so many Jewish friends in Chicago.” These “friends,” of course, were the kind of Jews that Peter Beinart praises for being the right kind of Jews who were critical of Israel, rather than the wrong kind that support Israel such as the members of AIPAC. They were Jews like the late very left-wing rabbi whom Obama befriended in Chicago, a man typical of all leftist Jews who support every “progressive” cause at home and save their criticism for the Jewish state they purport to care about — if only it takes steps that might endanger its security, but which the leftist Jews living in the United States believe it must take if it is to have their full support. And of course, his Jewish friends included the likes of Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, the latter who himself came from a very left-wing Jewish milieu.
Finally, revealing the president’s arrogance and chutzpah, to use the old Yiddish word, he actually told the Conservative Jewish rabbis that “he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it — and wondered how come no one asks speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about their support to Israel.” No one asks them about it, although Obama did not pause to consider why no one does, because in their case there is no question about the solid commitment they have to Israel. The president’s record, on the other hand, has included many times at which he seemed to turn drastically away from any genuine concern for Israel’s security needs.
As John Podhoretz quickly pointed out, the president’s bragging is “transparently absurd.” Every single president until our modern age knew more about Judaism from the Old Testament. Harry Truman, to take one example I am most familiar with, quoted from its pages in his Farewell Address in which he reiterated his hopes for Israel’s success. Truman many times told people how familiar he was with the quest of Jews for a homeland from his reading of the Bible. Even Jimmy Carter, despite his current disdain for Israel as a supposed “apartheid state,” is, as Podhoretz writes, “more conversant in the lore of Biblical Judaism” than Barack Obama.
So in one day, President Obama managed to offend the entire Polish nation and the Conservative Jewish leaders he was meeting with. I can hardly wait to see what other people the president can insult before the election campaign officially starts after Labor Day.