Republicans Weren’t Being Honest: About Themselves, About Romney, or About Israel

It wasn’t Obama who threw Israel under the bus, but Romney and other Republicans who were willing to sow discord and to distort reality in a futile search for a few Jewish votes.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

President Barack Obama handily won the Electoral College but only narrowly eked out a popular vote majority. In such a situation, there are numerous eligible candidates for the causa sine qua non award, the one element that made all the difference.

The last-minute uptick in economic indicators; Obama’s “best in the history of politics” campaign staff and their winning “Victory Lab” strategy; his recovery from the first debate debacle; the racial divide, the gender gap; the generational gulf; Republican extremism; Bill Clinton; Hurricane Sandy; Mitt Romney; Paul Ryan; Todd Akin; Chris Christie; Bruce Springsteen; Osama bin Laden. You get my drift.

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And then there is the matter of honesty, or lack thereof. When a conservative Super PAC in Chicago trotted out Abraham Lincoln to try to convince African-Americans that Republicans have their best interests at heart, you knew that they were ignoring Honest Abe’s first rule of politics: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

They sure tried. After all, the very choice of Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for the presidency was in and of itself utterly disingenuous. Yes, the multi-millionaire Mormon was the candidate of choice of the party’s establishment and elites, and yes, he probably had the best chance of winning. But Romney really had nothing in common with any of the constituents of the conservative core of today’s Republican party: the Bible-belt believers, the Tea Party types, the hard-working rednecks of rural America.

They preferred almost every alternative, no matter now ludicrous, that happened to come their way, up to and including Rick “Oops” Perry, Herman “999”Caine, and Newt “Moon Station” Gingrich. They chose Romney because he was the last man standing after all the other had gaffed themselves to oblivion and because their overriding burning desire was to eject Obama from the White House, in whatever way possible.

In order to win the primaries, Romney was forced to distance himself from his moderately liberal past and to cast himself as “severely conservative” and from there to lurch back to the moderate center in order to attract undecided independents in the nick of time. True, these are the accepted contours of most political races, presidential or otherwise, but with Romney the flip-flops were so spectacularly daring, the contortions so breathtakingly brazen, the posturing and pretense so amazingly amoral as to give political expediency a whole new meaning.

In many ways, it was the sense that Romney would say anything at any time to please anyone who might even think of voting for him that was a main element in his undoing: from his 47% pandering to his rich donors, through his desperate and utterly dishonest Chrysler ad in Ohio, to his cynical attempt to exploit the Benghazi tragedy while the victims’ bodies were still warm - Romney came across as a man who would leave no position unturned, no policy upheld and no principle defended in his single-minded quest for the White House.

But Romney’s unabashed pliability pales in comparison to the kind of pervasive moral obtuseness that allows otherwise self-respecting Republican notables to look the other way as the party gets taken over by Philistine politicians who deride education, deny knowledge, denigrate intellectualism and espouse primitive pseudo-scientific theories that can hardly disguise the misogynist that lies within.

It is the same kind of partisan blinders and prejudiced filters that led to the creation of that alternate universe of current affairs known as Fox News - now emulated on the left as well - that allows right-wingers and conservatives to create their own virtual reality where the facts are made to snugly fit the ideology, rather than the other way around. It is the same kind of axiomatic belief in pervasive and malevolent bias that led otherwise respected professionals and pundits to belittle the overwhelming evidence of polls in the closing days of the campaign, to question the motives of the pollsters who conducted them and to deny reality even when it was staring them in the face - and even, ludicrously, after the votes had been counted. If one had to encapsulate this phenomenon in one fleeting moment, it has to be when strategist Carl Rove implored Fox News on election night to retract their declaration of Obama’s victory in Ohio, as if doing that might somehow produce a different result.

And nowhere was the blatant disregard for facts, for reality and for a sense of proportion more evident than in the hypocrisy and hyperbole so cynically employed in order to try and depict Obama as some sort of latter day Haman who seeks to undermine Israel, if not to destroy the Jewish people completely. Many millions of dollars were wasted in a futile effort to wrest away a few percentage points of Jewish voters away from the Democrats and into the Republican camp. The results, as exit polls showed on Tuesday, were close to negligible, but the Jewish community was whipped to hysteria and wracked by internal discord while the deployment of Israel as a wedge issue inevitably threatened its bipartisan political support, temporarily if not irrevocably.

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President Obama is probably not the warmest and possibly not even the best friend that Israel has ever had in the White House, but he has done nothing to merit the kind of unrelenting campaign of distortion and defamation that he has been subjected to in recent months by Republican critics. Obama may support a two-state solution within amended 1967 borders, but so do a large chunk, if not a majority, of most Israelis. He doesn’t get along all that well with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but most other world leaders don’t either. And way before Romney’s campaign stop in Israel this summer, Obama was well aware of Netanyahu’s political preferences and how far both he and his benefactors were willing to go in order to realize their aims.

And no, Obama didn’t “throw Israel under the bus,” as Romney repeatedly and dishonestly insisted, because someone had whispered in his ear that some Jews might actually believe it. The argument ultimately didn’t wash, among other reasons, because it was so patently untrue.

In fact, if anyone threw Israel under the bus in this election campaign it wasn’t Obama but those who recklessly exploited Israel as a political football without giving a second thought to the consequences and the fallout from their actions if, God forbid, Obama is elected once again.

Follow me on Twitter @ChemiShalev

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters during a campaign rally at Screen Machines Industries on November 2, 2012 in Etna, Ohio.Credit: AFP



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