Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama Faces AIPAC

When I just wrote that, as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, Barack Obama would have to worry about communicative actions within his party as much as those with the rest of the world, I forgot to recognize that lobbying figures very strongly where those "internal" communicative actions are concerned. I am sure that, between now and the Convention, the press will be providing us with no end of reports about Obama's relations with the lobbyists who beat a path to his Senate Office door; but today we had our first opportunity to see him in action in the face of one of Washington's most powerful lobbying organizations. Today was his day to address the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC); and, if differentiation is to be his calling card, this could have been the perfect scene for differentiating himself from John McCain, who gave his address on Monday. I say "could have" because, on the basis of the report just released by Al Jazeera English (based on their wire sources), Obama seems to have failed to "carpe the diem" (a turn of phrase, which, if I am not mistaken, I picked up from The Sopranos). While I had been hoping that "the Obama audacity" would be strong enough to confront "the confluence of mishegoss and chutzpah" that seemed to prevail during McCain's speech, my hopes seem to have been disappointed:

Barack Obama, the US Democratic presumptive presidential nominee, has pledged to safeguard Israel's security if elected president in November.

Obama also described the US bond with the Jewish state as "unbreakable today, unbreakable tomorrow, unbreakable for ever" and said he spoke as a "true friend" of Israel.

Hours after securing his party's nomination, Obama told the influential annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Council (Aipac) on Wednesday that rumours and suggestions he is unfriendly to Israel and to Jewish interests are unfounded.

Obama, the first African-American to win the presidential nomination for a major US political party, said that Jerusalem must remain the "undivided" capital of Israel in a speech to the powerful US-Israel lobby group.

"Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided," the Illinois senator said.

Obama drew a standing ovation ahead of addressing the gathering of one of US politics' most influential lobbying groups, and also addressed perceived suspicion of him in some sectors of the Jewish community.

"As president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security," Obama said.

Obama, who also said he would approve $30 billion in aid to Israel over the next 10 years, said he was not opposed to holding talks with "appropriate" Iranian leaders using "tough and principled diplomacy".

Needless to say, I was not the only one disappointed:

However Hamas reacted angrily to Obama's speech, with Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the organisation, telling AFP on Wednesday that it was "evidence of the hostility of the American administration to Arabs and Muslims".

Thus, if the world is anticipating that Obama will bring about major changes in the communicative actions that take place between the White House and the rest of the world, then he has gotten himself off to a bad start where Hamas is concerned; and Hamas is probably one of the best examples of a legitimate representative body that, as I put it, has been "intransigently shunned by the Bush Administration." Put another way, Obama's first day as presumptive nominee turned out to be a good day for business-as-usual, which means it was a bad day for audacity!


People Power Granny said...

People Power Granny is already disappointed with Barack Obama's position of promising to not negotiate with Hamas in the Middle East, if he is elected president. Do you think that Hamas should be negotiated with, as former President Carter has done? Vote in my poll at my blog so I know what you think.

Stephen Smoliar said...

I have now cast my vote, and I hope many more votes are cast! As I pointed out in my own
follow-up to this post
, if we are to take a truly democratic approach to representative governments, then it is sometimes necessary to recognize the disconnect between de jure and de facto representatives. Once that disconnect is understood, it usually follows that ignoring the de facto representatives (such as the Hamas administration of Gaza) is a really bad (not to mention antidemocratic) idea. Where our Middle East policy is concerned, the idea is even worse, since it entails a tacit assumption that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that "really knows how democracy works;" and, given the current mess surrounding the Prime Minister, that is turning out to be a suspect, if not specious, premise!

Wes said...

Given the problems of the DeLay gang in the American House of Representatives, a type of problem that continues today with Jerry Lewis (R. CA) and Harold Washington D. LA), the Ohlmert situation is not all that unusual. It is just that in America, we have better PR organizations ready to spin anything any direction you want.