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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

THOMAS FRIEDMAN wonders "Where did 'we' go?

It's not just Liberals, Lefties, Democrats who are appalled at the violent turn opposition to Mr. Obama has taken in just 8 short months.  Mr. Friedman, whom no one would describe as an alarmist Leftie, has seen this sort of rightwing extremism before, and the result was horrific.  Friedman reminds us:

I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.  


I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish settler as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly.
The rest of his sobering column is here:  Link

24 comments:

Jim said...

Yes, it is getting dangerous out there.

The last American president to be assassinated, JFK, was done in by an avowed Communist.

The last American president to be shot, R. Reagan, was by a love struck lunatic.

Gerald Ford was shot at in San Francisco by a member of a murderous cult, the Manson Family, of all things.

George W was attacked in film, book, newspaper, TV, on a 24/7 basis and dodged who know how many physical attempts, yet survived.

Threats to life, sadly, is part of the job description for being president. I am sure Mr. Obama was aware of that before he filled out the application.

I just hope that whoever is planning such a deed is caught and jailed long before the attempt is made.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Jim,

You fail to understand that this violent rhetoric is now being spread by and approved of by Republican members of Congress.

Find me on the internet, or anywhere, where some Congressman or woman declared that the President of the US was an enemy of humanity and had no place in any station of government.

That is treasonous speech with the purpose of inciting violence against the government and the executive branch. It is not a criticism of Mr. Obama's policies, but a slander on the President.

Your other examples are not apt, since nothing like this was happening during those past presidents' administrations.

Not even in GWB's.

TAO said...

Jim,

Why not document the last time a major news source published an article speculating on a military overthrow of a popularly elected President...IN THE UNITED STATES?

Arthurstone said...

So how many 'physical attempts' did GWB 'dodge' Jim?

Or are you just fantasizing again? Your seem to specialize in this sort of non-sequitur.

Dave Miller said...

When terrorists attacked us on 9/11 many people were rightly upset at images of people from primarily Muslim celebrating in the streets.

As time went on we heard from some political leaders that Islam is not a dangerous religion, only that it had been hijacked by extremists.

Those types of statements were frequently met with derision from the conservative and more religious voices in the United States.

They pointed that if Islam was indeed a religion of peace, we should expect to hear from those more moderate clerics within the religion itself.

When those more moderate voices did not step forward, many on the right interpreted this as proof of a lack of tolerance and moderation within Islam.

To many, this lack of public, widespread condemnation of terrorist activities in the name of Islam showed many that this religion was not a religion of peace, but of hate.

Now we have a similar situation here in the United States.

We have people, some as individuals, some as part of loosely organized groups, and others belonging to a major political party personally attacking President Obama.

Not his policies, but him personally and even the legitimacy of his presidency.

We have seen the birthers. We have seen the witch doctor photos. We have heard the words of elected representatives.

And nowhere have we seen the voices of moderation in the GOP stand up and publicly repudiate these types of statements.

Nowhere have we seen the GOP leadership take a stand against this type of behavior similar to what they expected from the moderate leaders of Islam.

I think it safe to assume, following their logic vis-à-vis Islam, that they in fact agree with people like the birthers, Rep Franks, Rep Bachmann, and the Facebook person.

Unless and until we see GOP leadership step forward and condemn these acts, and say there is no place for them in American politics, it is safe to assume that by their silence, they condone these acts.

So, Sarah Palin, Gov. Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and all you other GOP "leaders" with Presidential ambitions and a desire to lead, the ball is now in your court.

Sorry Shaw, I had to get it off my chest.

TAO said...

Dave,

Your point is VERY WELL MADE!

Today leadership is about riding the wave of public opinion rather than directing it and or harnessing it.

If you go back to 9/11 and look at where the 'dancing in the streets' occurred...you will note that it did NOT occur in Iran. In fact the people set up a memorial.

Which is something we have to keep in mind when dealing with Iran. Especially in light of the fact that they did dance in the street in Pakistan and we are pouring billions into that country.

Arthurstone said...

Good post Dave Miller. Our leaders need a boogeyman. 'Win' (near bankruptcy for the US but hey, we 'won') the Cold War?

No problem.

Islamfascism is even WORSER.

And 'Muslims' want to slice off our heads and dance on on our graves.

Of course with a worldwide Islamic population nearing 2 billion if any truly significant number of them really wanted us dead there would be an awful lot more killing going on.

But, like most threats to the nation, this one doesn't really bear close scrutiny.

Bear in mind how that bearded ragamuffin ruling a pokey island nation 90 miles south of Florida has kept us on alert for nearly 60 years.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Dave,

I'd like to post that on my blog, with your permission.

It was very well stated and a great example.

Dave Miller said...

It's all yours Shaw.

dmarks said...

Arthur: You might want to crack open a history book. The "bogeyman" you mention in your first paragraph wasn't some mere imaginary closet phantom, but a large global empire that (until 1989) enslaved many nations, and promised to get the rest of the world, and had killed 50+ million people in the process already.

Anonymous said...

My 8:00AM comment that the NYT wouldn't post:


Tommy, America, our country, is no longer our country, or a democracy.

Rather it is a ruling-elite corporate/financial EMPIRE hiding behind the facade of a two-party, 'Vichy' sham of democracy.

The American people learned in 1775 that there can be no "we" when you are controlled by an Empire. (period)

The issue, dear Tommy, is whether we, the real citizens, want to live under democracy or Empire, and there can be none of your 'soft logic' middle-ground on that issue!

As Hannah Arendt presciently warned based on her understanding of the Nazi Empire (and all other Empires), "Empire abroad (always) entails tyranny at home."

Yes, Tom, we can fight Empire and restore our democracy --- but that ‘we’ does NOT include the Empire!

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

Shaw Kenawe said...

Tommy, America, our country, is no longer our country, or a democracy.

Rather it is a ruling-elite corporate/financial EMPIRE hiding behind the facade of a two-party, 'Vichy' sham of democracy.

The American people learned in 1775 that there can be no "we" when you are controlled by an Empire. (period)

The issue, dear Tommy, is whether we, the real citizens, want to live under democracy or Empire, and there can be none of your 'soft logic' middle-ground on that issue!

As Hannah Arendt presciently warned based on her understanding of the Nazi Empire (and all other Empires), "Empire abroad (always) entails tyranny at home."

Yes, Tom, we can fight Empire and restore our democracy --- but that ‘we’ does NOT include the Empire!

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine


Empire is nothing new to this country. Read the history of how we acquired the territory from the Native Peoples who were here for thousands and thousands of years before the Europeans carved it up for themselves and then established their country on it. Read how we were involved in Cuba, the Philippines.

I hope you were busy writing to the New York Times and telling them how upset you were with the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq.

The mess we're in now did not happen in the first 8 months of Mr. Obama's administration. It happened over a period of many years.

As for the people who believe we've become a Socialist country under Mr. Obama, I refer them to this chart which demonstrates how silly that idea is.

Arthurstone said...

dmarks.

I've never typed a single word supporting the Soviets, Red Chinese, Cubans, North Koreans et. al.

That you willfully choose to ignore that obvious fact is your problem. And the sort of selective amnesia you revel in is what I have been posting about the past couple of weeks.

I have over and again criticized our government policies and the attitudes and actions of citizens such as yourself who choose to take the most heinous examples of tyrannical behavior and apply it to fellow citizens of a leftist bent. It is my right and, in the case of my government, my obligation. These are my tax dollars hard at work killing people all around the world who really don't need killing.

It is my right to discuss what I consider unlearned lessons repeated over and again in places from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. I just finished reading 'Bacardi and the long fight for Cuba: the biography of a cause' and it's fascinating. Our long time involvement in Cuban politics is nothing to be proud of. Prior to the Fidelista revolution our treatment of the Cubans was shameful and after Fidel came to power it seemed as if consecutive governments went out of their way to ensure he would stay in power.

The endless hardline approach the US has maintained has really worked well. Fidel's regime has only remained in power for nearly sixty years by my reckoning. And much of the credit can go to us. On the other hand we have done really fine work building democracy in places like Guatemala where the number of civilians killed by brutal rightists supported by our tax dollars dwarfs the number killed by Castro.

Over and over and over again the suggestion that possibly there are better ways to deal with such regimes has been discounted as 'un-American' and 'subversive'. The Cold War finally ended with the Soviets broke and the US teetering on the brink. And that conflict went on and on and on due in large part to domestic political calculations of the sort you espouse.

Likewise domestic initiatives face the same hurdles. You forerunners said the same thing about Social Security, Medicare and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While he was alive MLK had to endure endless attacks and smears. When he was working (Minister & Community Organizer by profession) he was a communist now MLK has his speeches and writings cherry-picked to 'prove' right-wingers wishful thinking that racism is over.

White racism that is. Folks like Reverend Wrights and Van Jones are still stirring things up.

So please, spare me your lectures on history dmarks and save them for the truly gullible.

dmarks said...

Arthur said: "I've never typed a single word supporting the Soviets, Red Chinese, Cubans, North Koreans et. al."

Not here, and not recently, that I recall anyway. But you did label the existing threat as a "bogeyman" which is defined as an "imaginary monster". Hence, the need to point out the historic fact of something having existed. Something that was not in any way imaginary.

I was not accusing you of defending them. I was merely pointing out the fact that they were real, after you said they were imaginary.

"citizens such as yourself who choose to take the most heinous examples of tyrannical behavior and apply it to fellow citizens of a leftist bent"

I only apply it to those few fellow citizens of the leftist bent (those on the far left) who fully embrace the most heinous examples of tyrannical behavior. These DO exist. Extremes on the left DO exist. These extremes are found in the views of Bill Ayers and the left-wing terrorists of the 1960s, and in people like Van Jones.

These extremes do not exist in Barack Obama, and the aforementioned Ted Kennedy and Paul Wellstone.

I recognize the difference between liberals and the tiny dangerous fringe on the Left, while you so oddly argue that the most dangerous fringe nuts are good community leaders, and progressives.

Again, this blurring of the worst extremes with the mainstream center Left is something that Shaw, etc never do. Yet, it is something you have in common with Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity.

"While he was alive MLK had to endure endless attacks and smears"

Again, you bring this up, and seemingly try to attach it to me. I depore all of the false accusations made against Dr. King. It is never correct to describe someone as a communist unless they are one.

"Folks like Reverend Wrights and Van Jones are still stirring things up."

Well, there are a few racist black demogagues in modern America, just as there are white ones.

"So please, spare me your lectures on history dmarks and save them for the truly gullible."

I save them for the uninformed such as you, or anyone else who thinks that real nations were imaginary.

Jim said...

? You fail to understand that this violent rhetoric is now being spread by and approved of by Republican members of Congress.

O wait, I remember now. GW was denounced over and over and over . . . still is to this day as the illegitimate winner of 2000. Talk about trying to undermine a duly elected President. And every Democratic leader of the House and Senate got in on that act, or did it slip your mind?

Yes I do understand SK, that you don't like your ox being gored but by golly you don't mind at all goring republicans, moderate or not if they disagree with your ideology.

Your other examples are not apt, since nothing like this was happening during those past presidents' administrations.

Well, I would think that President John Adams would disagree with you. Probably President Andrew Jackson as well. Come to think of it A. Lincoln would just laugh his butt off. As might President Andrew Johnson.

Yellow journalism in their day makes ours look like it came from Mr. Rogers neighborhood. I'll not list here all the vile and malicious things said about these and other Presidents, not just in print but on the floor of both Houses. Take your own advice and look it up on the internet. I suggest you start with the speeches of W. Seward. A real peach that one.

What has been said and what may be said in the future about Mr. Obama may be vile. It may be malicious. It may even be funny. Treasonous speech, hardly.

TAO do you ever have a point? Or are you just lost in the ether and can't find your way back. I do suggest you google the year 1859 when you get back to yourself.

Arthurstone you are too cute by half. Non-sequitur indeed. Dammit boy you're on to me. I don't believe the Secret Service has released the information you obviously think did not occur, that is, physical attempts on the life of Mr. G W Bush. I believe they rarely release such information voluntarily. However, in Tblisi, something or other stan, a grenade was tossed at the podium where Mr. Bush was speaking. Does that count?

Mr. Obama is my president. I don't like his politics. I don't like his policies. I want his policies to fail and I want him to be a one termer. I do want Mr. Obama to succeed in the area of protecting these United States as is prescribed in the Constitution. If he fails in that regard, we all fail.

Shaw Kenawe said...

O wait, I remember now. GW was denounced over and over and over . . . still is to this day as the illegitimate winner of 2000.--JIM

So you reason that since GWB was denounced, we should accept as "tit-for-tat" members of Congress who sit in on conferences that call Mr Obama an "enemy of humanity," and that we should ignore a writer on a major internet venue, Newsmax, suggesting there will be an armed insurrection by the military against the duly elected president of the US. I see.

There were lots of venomous things going on in politics during the 19th century, including the first presidential assassination.

Most people would hope to progress beyond the violent impulses and rhetoric of the past and not accept them as normal.

William Seward wrote some lines [as suggestions] for Mr. Lincoln's first inaugural speech, which Mr. Lincoln rewrote to reflect his own eloquence. I think they still apply to the anger, divisiveness, and violent rhetoric going on today:

"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Arthurstone said...

Jim typed:

George W was attacked in film, book, newspaper, TV, on a 24/7 basis and dodged who know how many physical attempts, yet survived.

When pressed he added:

'Arthurstone you are too cute by half. Non-sequitur indeed. Dammit boy you're on to me. I don't believe the Secret Service has released the information you obviously think did not occur, that is, physical attempts on the life of Mr. G W Bush.'


Sorry Jim.

But to be fair you make it sound as if he and Laura had to fight their way back into the White House after every visit to Camp David.

So yes. I am onto you Jim.

Arthurstone said...

dmarks-

Stop confusing my word 'exaggerated' with yours, 'imaginary'.

I have made the point over again not that our political rivals (the Red Menace) were 'imaginary' but rather that their threat to us was 'exaggerated'.

Makes a bit of difference.

Jim said...

How in the world did you get that idea Arthurstone, that I thought GW had to fight his way back into the White House? I was merely pointing out that it is not fantasizing about real physical attempts on his life.

I am not suggesting tit-for-tat SK. Your blog, and others like it, will surely keep up a continuous drumbeat of anti conservatism, and rah rah pom pom pumping diatribes for this administration no matter how poorly it performs. Again, there is ample history in the last century to prove the dangers of being president. Just because Mr. Obama got himself elected president, the only accomplishment in his short life so far of any political meaning, does not mean the Presidency started with him!

Jim said...

O yes, SK, you will find this quote by Seward quite fascinating:

"Only a despotic and imperial government can coerce seceding states" - William Seward US Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln in 10 April 1861 to Charles Francis Adams, Minister to the Court of St. James (Britain)

Shaw Kenawe said...

Jim,

I don't know how much you read about Seward, but I recall that although he was bitterly disappointed when Lincoln got his party's nomination instead of him [Seward was so sure he had it wrapped up, that instead of campaigning, he went on an extended tour of Europe, while Linclon campaigned around the country]--while Seward was angry about the outcome of the nomination, when Lincoln became president and appointed Seward at his Secy. of State, Seward came to admire and love him.

People can change and grow as they learn facts and understand the greatness of the people they deal with. This was Seward. And he, along with many other Lincoln skeptics who were appointed to his cabinet, became fiercely loyal to our 16th president.

BTW, Mr. Obama actually had more legislative experience than Lincoln at the time Mr. Obama was elected. Lincoln had no executive experience when he became president.

Jim said...

True, Mr. Obama had more elected time in the legislature, though voting "present" for most of it proves he lacks leadership skills.

I was a fan of Mr. Lincoln for many years. Then I did a detailed study of his Presidency. He was a very vicious and self serving politician. As an example, one that is rarely publicized, is that he had a group of Native Americans, I believe the number was 18 but don't quote me on that, hanged in Minnesota strictly on political reasons. Read about it at the local university library. Or the net.

Lincoln tore the Constitution in half by forcing states to remain in Union. He put us on the path to where we find ourselves today, with a narcissistic president who when faced with a crucial war decision goes off to Copenhagen on a mission of dubious outcome, and a centralized government totally out of control. The very thing the Founding Fathers tried to prevent when writing the Constitution.

Arthurstone said...

Oh brother.

The Founding Fathers and their 'intentions'.

A mixed bag that.

Slavers. Pirates. Religious fanatics. Scoundrels. The occasional Enlightenment enthusiast but on the whole a more self-interested, narcissistic bunch is hard to imagine.

Good thing we have evolved over the years.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Lincoln tore the Constitution in half by forcing states to remain in Union.--Jim

Some historians see that as holding the Union together. Mr. Lincoln said that if keeping slavery in all the states would keep the Union together, he would be for that; if outlawing slavery in all the states would keep the Union together, he would be for that; and if having the Union half-slave and half-free would keep the Union together, he would be for that too. He was for keeping the Union together at any cost.

As for your story about Lincoln and the Native Americans, I'm not surprised. The white invaders who came here and stole the land from the Native settlers were, for the most part, racists and stupid.

It was the accepted thinking that Europeans had a god-given right to take land from the Native peoples who had been here for thousands and thousands of years--instead of sharing it [there was quite a bit of it to go around], as most Native peoples were willing to do.