The Other Obama-Romney Debate

by David Luchins

[Editor’s note: Mishpacha has hosted a fascinating exchange about the attractiveness of President Obama’s candidacy to the Orthodox community. The combatants have been our own Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum and Dr. David Luchins. Jonathan is a regular contributor to Mishpacha, and did have some home-turf advantage. While Mishpacha did allow Dr Luchins to respond through a lengthy letter to the editor, it was still edited for size. Since Jonathan’s Mishpacha article was republished on Cross-Currents, David asked us for the right to respond with the full, unedited response he had prepared, and also to allow a fuller flow of comments than Mishpacha could handle as a print medium. We are happy, of course, to allow the reciprocity]

I was flattered to see that my wise friend Yonasan Rosenblum felt I could make “the best case” for re-electing President Obama (Mishpacha, September 3, 2012), but I do wish he had stayed to the end of the debate, when I addressed several of the points he raises in the article.

Yonasan is correct that I have not voted for a second term President since Richard Nixon in 1972, when, on Hubert Humprey’s personal recommendation, I was the youngest National Vice Chair of Democrats for Nixon. But my reason was hardly because second term Presidents “stick it to Israel”. On the contrary, I’d be hard pressed to say that Ronald Reagan’s second term (visits Bittburg and recognizes the PLO) was nearly as “bad” for Israel as his first (sells AWACs to Saudis; tears up the agreement to share US intelligence with Israel when they have the temerity to bomb the Iraqi reactor, forcing them to pay Pollard for information they had been promised; and saves Arafat from Sharon in Beirut). I think second terms tend to be bad (see Clinton, William J; Bush, George W.) independent of the Israel issue.

Similarly, my point about Dr. Rice is hardly answered by saying she was as “bad as Hillary Clinton”. Read her autobiography or her speeches. Her criticism of Obama for “failing to shrink Israel,” as she boasts Bush did in Gaza, is chilling; as is her description of how she forced a weak Israeli government to allow Hamas into the PA elections. Why does this matter? I think it matters that she gave the major foreign policy address at the Republican Convention and that she, and her mentor Jim Baker, were the most prominent foreign policy figures at the biggest Romney fundraisers’ weekend in Utah.

Yonasan is correct that we all need to sacrifice. But our community would be devastated by the Ryan/Romney Budget cuts in Medicaid (nursing home care for the elderly, in particular), food stamps, healthcare, WIC, housing (including Section 8), Pell and Homeland Security Grants, poverty assistance and middle class tax deductions, in order to provide millionaire and billionaire Republican contributors with lavish tax cuts. I, for one, do not consider that “shared sacrifice”.

There is much, much more to say. It is sad that our politics are so polarized and dysfunctional, and yes, I fault President Obama for his votes as a Senator against raising the debt ceiling and confirming John Roberts, and his failure as President to embrace Simpson-Bowles or articulate policy goals to the American people as clearly as he should have. But, I find the Republican policy of demonization to be even more disturbing.

Yonasan apparently felt that my unvarnished critique of President Obama’s record suggested that I might not be voting for him. Quite the contrary, I suspect I am more comfortable with my vote this time around than the average Republican whose fancy flitted from Trump to Bachman, to Perry to Cain, to Santorum to Gingrich, until reluctantly accepting Romney. The President has done a superb job of fighting terror; strengthening the coalition against, and subversive activities within, Iran; protecting Israel at the United Nations and partially righting an economy that was in virtual free fall when he took the oath of office (including saving the domestic auto industry) over the strenuous objections of the Republicans in Congress.

I ended my debate presentation with a story. In March of 1991 Senator Moynihan and I were visiting with Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir when he asked the Senator “are you thinking of running for President?” When the Senator assured him that he had no such intentions, Shamir replied “good, then we can stay friends because it is very dangerous when the Prime Minister of Israel feels he can’t say “no” to his friend the President of the United States”.

I vastly prefer President Obama’s bad body language (and superb security cooperation) with Prime Minister Netanyahu, over a President Romney, backed by a rubber stamp one party Congress (as Bush enjoyed during the Gaza “disengagement”) calling on his “friend”, the Prime Minister of Israel accompanied by the likes of Jim Baker and Condi Rice.

Dr. David Luchins served for 20 years on the Staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and as a National Vice Chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. He has served as Chair of the Political Science Department of Touro College since 1978 and on the National Board of the OU since 1971. [Ed. unsolicited addition: He has distinguished himself in the latter role for his devotion to NCSY]. The views in this letter are his own, not those of any organization or institution he may be affiliated with.

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60 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    I am very conflicted by the dichotemy between domestic vs Eretz Yisroel issues, but, in the end, am not going to vote for Obama this time. My lack of support is symbolic in my state of Maryland which will vote Democratic overwhelmingly. The voters in the swing states will decide.
    The sad reality is that we have gridlock in Washington and no matter who is President, Congress is still dysfunctional. Romney is much more rational than his stated positions. He doesn’t believe in the flat earth dogma of the current Republican Party , he is just saying whatever he needs to get elected. He swung to the right to get nominated and now is moderating his stands. Both parties are beholden to big money donors and the whole system reeks with corruption and special interest influence. The extremes dominate in the primaries and the nominees have to pretend to believe in positions that are wrong and short sighted but it is what it is. I would prefer not to even vote this time I am so disgusted, but I will support the State of Israel by my symbolic stand.

  2. Bob MIller says:

    In these times, it’s evidently quite possible for brilliant, politically astute observers of the scene to get the big picture 100% wrong. It comes from filtering the data through preexisting political biases. Any Jew who now has no fundamental problems with the Democratic Party and its elected and appointed officials, and their policies, needs a deep attitude check.

    As for debates among candidates and others, anyone with enough IQ and preparation can make an effective case for any side of an issue. The emes, though, still is what it is.

  3. DF says:

    Our old family-friend Dr. Luchins, is, as many in the close-knit orthodox community know, a distinguished educator, a genial fellow – and a baby-boomer who’s not yet shifted his paradigms. Thus, by the very definition of a paradigm shift, it is impossible for him to see what’s become of his childhood political party, no matter what you show him or point out. He will simply not see it. Thus he can still cling to the long-outdated stereotype of the GOP as the party of millionaires and billionaires, (a cliche hasnt been true since at least, and even before, the dawn of the dotcom era) and all but runs away and hides from the democrats actively removing Israel from their party platform.

    More can be said about Dr. Luchin’s views, such as his opinion that Condi Rice (!) is an extremist, that our abysmal economy has been “partially righted”, that Regan “saved Arafat from Sharon”, and more. But I think it is beside the point. Most objective observers easily see through these hollow defenses. 85-90% of orthodox Jews will be voting GOP. (And, as the Wepnir election and growing antecdotal evidence shows, so will many otherwise reliable Jewish Democrats. Just this morning I heard liberal Jewish comedian Jon Lovitz say publicly on the radio there’s no way he could vote for Obama.) It is right and healthy for a community to have some dissenters in its midst, and no doubt they can occasionally make you think, modify, or even change a viewpoint or two. This election, however, is not such an occasion.

  4. dr. bill says:

    Realize that the US has strategic intetests that must trump any friendship/kinship with Israel. that said, a US president who is friendly to Israel attempts to align the two counties strategic interests. JW Bush tried to align israel, with eygpt, turkey and the saudis to face the common enemy – Iran. Sharon did not respond adequately and the opportunity evaporated.

    On the other hand, this president has done nothing but isolate israel with his “bowing” to dictators and mea culpas for western values. other presidents have and will disappoint, as Dr. luchins point out, if we judge them only by israeli interests. However, this president has continued to weaken our strategic ties using dollars / military aid to cover his tracks. we can only pray that he can work his adgenda but only in retirement.

  5. Shanks says:

    Dr. Luchins and I have had occasion for vehement disagreement in the past, regarding questions of academic freedom. But his article here is largely correct. He’s correct that the GOP is beholden by a neder to Grover Norquist, and they will not compromise on anything by raising revenues through taxation; moreover, Romney’s made clear there will be absolutely no cuts to military, even where they want it.

    DF pigeonholing Dr. Luchins as some stereotypical baby boomer Jew is offensive, when he (nebuch) was on Dems for Nixon. I can certainly understand how DF’s chevra will be voting GOP this year though. To my mind, they’re unquestionably the frummer party: They’re more socially conservative, operate more based on faith-based principles, and more hawkish than the Dems. But as Dr. Luchins detects, they’re not the best for America, or even necessarily for Israel (and if you keep up on what’s going on in Israel, as Rabbi Shafran has pointed out numerous times, Obama has been no enemy of the Jews).

    DF’s correct that John Lovitz isn’t voting for Obama (although I’m not sure what makes him a “liberal”). But some Republicans aren’t voting for Romney; for example, Larry Pressler, for example, is voting for Obama. Others have basically been ousted from the party, and it’s not entirely clear who these once-normative Republicans will be voting for, but I don’t think it’s fair to pretend Obama’s the only person people are disappointed in.

  6. Crazy Kanoiy says:

    Dr. Luchins,

    It is wrong and unfair to blame Bush for the Gaza disengagement. This plan was devised, implemented and supported by PM Ariel Sharon and his government. It enjoyed the support of the majority of Israelis at that time. Before being felled by his stroke Ariel Sharon was posed to score an overwhelming electoral victory even after the disengagement from Gaza took place.

    President Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Condolezza Rice stood strongly with Israel at its time of need. They forcefully backed Israel’s right to defend itself and take on Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority. The strength of their support should not be underestimated or diminished.

    Claiming that Republican policy to Israel is framed by the likes of Condi Rice and James Baker while ignoring the likes of Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Elliot Abrams and other Republican Pro Israel stalwarts is misleading and deceitful. It is akin to saying that the Democrats position on Israel is formed by the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski.

  7. Daniel says:

    “But our community would be devastated by the Ryan/Romney Budget cuts in Medicaid (nursing home care for the elderly, in particular), food stamps, healthcare, WIC, housing (including Section 8), Pell and Homeland Security Grants, poverty assistance and middle class tax deductions, in order to provide millionaire and billionaire Republican contributors with lavish tax cuts.”

    I see. So I should vote for Obama because he will forcibly take money from rich people and give it to me.

    Forgive me, but that sounds worse than sodom. I like to think that I should live ethically, and that Hashem has enough money to feed me–without my stealing.

  8. David luchins says:

    I have no idea who the brave , but alas anonymous,DF is , but he is way off about the “Political Party of his youth” I supported John Lidsay for Mayor, Melson Rockefeller for Governor and worked on the Javits and Goodell campaigns. Very proud to have worked for Hubert Humphrey (and for Richard Nixon at his behest in 1972)and Pat Moynihan . Voted for D”Amato and Pataki a few times, for Bob Dole in 1996 and for only one Democrat (Gillibrant ) in four state wide offices in 2010.But rather than answer my facts (Google “Rice” and “Shrink Israel”,),the anaonymous DF chooses to ridicule the messenger. Appreciate Bob Miller’s musar > I have problems with both parties and their elected officials. Does that make me a bad Jew or just a confused one? As for my old friend Lenny Oberstein, we can agree to disagree. The civility and humility of his position is both appreciated and respected.

  9. Reb Yid says:

    The discussion here says much about the shifting paradigms of two segments of American Jewry that are growing further and further apart.

    The fact that this is happening when the Republican Party has shifted so drastically to the right reveals that it is many Orthodox Jews who, in DF’s terms, do not “see it”.

  10. Bob Miller says:

    David Luchins commented above, “I have problems with both parties and their elected officials. Does that make me a bad Jew or just a confused one?”

    What then are your problems with Obama, Biden, Pelosi and Reid, and how have you attempted in practice to solve them?

  11. Charles Hall says:

    “Condi Rice (!) is an extremist”

    Where did he say that? But just five years ago the Zionist internet sites were full of articles decrying how the anti-Israel Rice was thwarting Bush’s pro-Israel intent — never mind that Bush tolerated no dissent within his administration.

    ‘, that our abysmal economy has been “partially righted”,’

    It has. The recession ended June 2009. Unemployment is now back at the level it was about the time Obama took office. The stock market is at near record levels. Oil production in the US is at the highest level since the Clinton administration, and natural gas production is at the highest level ever.

    “85-90% of orthodox Jews will be voting GOP.”

    Maybe, maybe not. We hosted 54 Jews for meals over the recent yomim tovim. While it is admittedly an unscientific sample, roughly 2/3 expressed support for Obama. The Republican propaganda machine has not been 100% effective.

    “he will forcibly take money from rich people and give it to me”

    Here in New York State, the most effective lobby in Albany in terms of getting money for its causes is the Orthodox Jewish lobby. Every local Jewish newspaper and internet site regularly features politicians getting state grants for Jewish causes.

  12. DF says:

    Dr. Luchins – if my identity is so important to my comments, I will contact you personally. But I accept the Rambam’s dictum of accepting the truth, regardless of the source. Some of the greatest works in history, including Torah works, were written anonymously. It’s simply not relevant. (By the way, of the 10 commenters on this list so far, EVERONE but one is anonymous. Using a more realistic-sounding name, like “Daniel Farbstein”, wouldnt make me any more anonymous to you than DF. Attacking an opponent’s anonymity is not a good way to defend one’s positions.)

    I refer to the Democrats as the party of your youth because you are identifed exclusively with Moynihan, regardless of you may have otherwise voted for.

  13. Charles Hall says:

    That people buy into the “Obama is anti-Israel” canard shows that we have failed to follow the most basic rule of the Middle East: Watch what people do, not what they say. Does anyone here believe that Yassir Arafat was sincere when he accepted Israel’s right to exist in the Oslo accords? Do we forget that “ally” Mubarak had Egyptian television produce a version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Yes, Obama has at times used negative language towards Israel, but so have many other Presidents, including George W. Bush who complained about Israel’s “daily humiliation of the Palestinian people”. But there has been no President who has actually DONE more for Israel in terms of security. And it isn’t just me who is saying that, it is Israel’s current Defense Minister, who has repeated this assessment numerous times.

  14. david luchins says:

    DF-I am new at this. Think its strange that folks have to hide behind fake names. If Pat Moynihan , who worked for four Presidents of both parties is the sort of Democrat that worries you then I can not offer much in way of response.

  15. Daniel says:

    DF’s argument would apply to anyone who has been a lifelong Democrat and could be expected to resist the idea that Democrats have become the party of anti-israel and anti-religious sentiment.

    I can tell you personally that I see a lot more respect for my religion from my republican friends than from my democrat friends.

    I am not posting my real name, since my name is not already plastered all over the internet, and I wish to control the information future employers will see when googling me.

  16. lacosta says:

    it is sad to think that the sine qua non of haredi life would be a welfare dependence lifestyle, especially ironic since many in the community disparage communities , especially minorities , known for that such a thing. the moral agenda of the liberals certainly doesn’t align with the frum outlook; if it’s just a matter of hanging around for the handouts, what does that make us?

  17. Eric Leibman says:

    1) Obama refuses to visit Israel. 2) He has been to the Middle East four times. 3)He treated the Prime Minister of Israel like he was garbage during his DC visit, shunted him through a side door, refused to have the traditional photo opp, etc. 4) He refused to meet with Netanyahu during his most recent visit to our country so the President could do more important things like appear on “The View” television show. 5) His pastor of twenty years and the man who performed the wedding ceremony for him and his wife is a raving anti-Semite. And on and on and on.

  18. Eric Leibman says:

    Let us also not forget how Obama caved on including Israel in the international forum on fighting terrorism because Turkey objected. Or the fact that his Iran policy is too little too late and what bite it really has has more to do with the insistence of congress that it at least DO SOMETHING, no thanks to him. Or that it is riddled with exemptions, a number of which HE supported. Or that he has worked overtime trying to tie Israel’s hands so it can’t deal with Iran militarily if it decides that is what it needs to do.

  19. Charles Hall says:

    “1) Obama refuses to visit Israel.”

    Obama visited Israel before he was President. And George W. Bush did not visit Israel during his first year in office.

    “3)He treated the Prime Minister of Israel like he was garbage during his DC visit”

    That was a necessary diplomatic payback for the even worse treatment Joe Biden got when he visited Israel. If Israel wants US elected officials to visit, it shouldn’t embarrass them.

    ‘4) He refused to meet with Netanyahu during his most recent visit to our country so the President could do more important things like appear on “The View” television show.’

    Obama didn’t meet with ANY foreign heads of government during the recent UN General Assembly session. And this is, after all, an election season. Would Romney stop campaigning on the day Obama was at the UNGA? Why, Romney couldn’t even keep his word to avoid campaign activity on 9/11! And for that matter, why didn’t Romney meet with Netanyahu in New York as he had in Israel?

    “5) His pastor of twenty years and the man who performed the wedding ceremony for him and his wife is a raving anti-Semite. ”

    The evidence for this is primarily a some possibly out of context videos taken from over twenty years of sermons. I guarantee you that you’d find a few equally embarrassing moments if you went through twenty years of videos of Shabat sermons by most orthodox rabbis. Fortunately, the Shabat restrictions prohibit such recordings!

    In addition, it happens that the particular sect that Obama belonged to is one of only two that explicitly “affirms…that God’s covenant with the Jewish people has not been rescinded or abrogated by God, but remains in full
    force”. That is a complete renunciation of the traditional supercessionist Christian theology!

    Finally, if Obama is so hostile to Jews, how come two of his Chiefs of Staff have been Jews — one who belongs to an Orthodox synagogue and the current one who is actually Orthodox!

    The double standards here are really glaring.

  20. Bob Miller says:

    Obama at Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March:

    I wonder if our liberal commenters have a good word to say to excuse this. Maybe Farrakhan is really our buddy. Maybe Obama was clueless about Farrakhan. Or maybe the liberals only see silver linings in Obama’s cloud.

  21. david luchins says:

    Think Dr Hall meant “Bush did not visit during his first term.” But then neither did Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford or Reagan. But Carter did! Guess that shows how little that means! Also, to gently answer some earlier posts-Reagan forced Israel to lift the siege of Beirut and saved Arafat and company (at the behest of the Saudis). I was on Moynihan’s staff at the time and he and D’Amato raised the roof over this. Lastly, three sources that Bush helped push Israel out of Gaza:1) Googgle “Rice” and “shrink Israel”; 2) Read Gil Troy’s’superb Jerusalem Post piece from August 2010 (his brother was on Bush’s staff; 3) Conservative Columnist Jeff Jacoby says “pressuring Israel out of Gaza was Bush’s biggest Middle east error.”

  22. BTG says:

    Why do people cherry pick what Obama has done in the past, but stay noticeably silent about their own favorite president’s anti-semitic behavior (like Reagan’s critizing israel about Osirak, behavior at Bitburg, support of Arafat; or George W. Bush being the first president to support a Palestinian state or critizing Israel rough treatment of the Palestinians)? Is it because, somewhere along the way, Frum jews decided they would support Republicans (they claim it’s about values, although I think it’s because they listen to too much talk radio)? Well, then all their thinking becomes teleological: any arguments must support our premise (Obama hates Israel, any evidence to the contrary must be false – like the Employment numbers). The same way Jews – rightfully – judge Richard Nixon not by what he said (and no President uttered more anti-semitic statements off the record than Nixon), but rather what he did (support Israel strongly during the Yom Kippur War, even though one can make the argument he did it more to get at the Russians than his love for Israel), they should also judge Obama by his clear support Israel, like unprecedented military coordination between the two countries, rejecting a Palestinian state openly before the UN, and defending Israel during his speeches to Arab audiences. For some of you, it’s not good enough (it never will be), but historically, he has been one of the most supportive Presidents of Israel, certainly more than Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

    I know some of you will never accept this (most of you will not even entertain the possibility that might be wrong). But that has less to with reality than your preconceived ideas about Obama and what you think he does or does not believe.

  23. david luchins says:

    Disclaimer-I am not BTG, but I agree with the thesis.

  24. L. Oberstein says:

    Lacosta notes that Chassidim love government programs and vote for liberals when their beliefs are otherwise. How can this be? I once sat next to a Congressman from New York City who told me his district has the largest number of gays and the largest number of Chassidim and that is not a problem> He is a liberal but he said the Chassidim only care about getting what they want and are not interested in anything else. He called this a “transactional relationship”. i am sorry his name slips me at the moment. I bellieve that the Chassidim are very effective in their ability to cultivate and profit from their block voting for whomever gives them more. It is the way business is done in other countries,where parties represent tribes, not ideologies. It isn’t the way Rabbi Moshe Sherer or Rabbi Naftali Neuberger related to political figures, but they are not with us any longer. Neither ever spoke for his own personal benefit or asked for a favor for profit. They were greatly respected and no one ever accused them of having a “tranactional relationship”. Of course, they were never indicted and didn’t have to “sit”.

  25. L. Oberstein says:

    Jerold Nadler was the congressman I sat next to.

  26. Mordechai Luchins says:

    Quick point of order – The Obama “View’ segment was taped several days in advance. he did not ignore Netanyahu and other leaders to tape said segment.

    Other than that, feel free to disagree with Dr. Luchins. G-d knows i do at times, and he gave me life.

  27. aron feldman says:

    Charles Hall wrote;
    Finally, if Obama is so hostile to Jews, how come two of his Chiefs of Staff have been Jews — one who belongs to an Orthodox synagogue and the current one who is actually Orthodox!

    The double standards here are really glaring.

    I’ve heard from many well placed AIPAC big shots that Rahm Emanuel was particularly unhelpful during his tenure

  28. Daniel says:

    Dr. Luchins:

    Would you please explain to us your moral justification in encouraging our community to vote for a candidate for the purpose of increase wealth transfers to our community?

    I’m always open to hearing new ideas.

  29. DF says:

    Dr. Luchins, I wrote you at your personal email.

    I see nothing anyone has written here has caused Dr. Luchins to change his mind. [That goes for the other baby boomer too, Charles Hall.] That is by no means whatsover an insult, God Forbid. As I said before, it is, almost by definition, impossible to get someone to shift his paradigms from X to Y, after he’s invested so much of his life in X. Thomas Kuhn describes this in the landmark work, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

    I would add on my own, from a “frum” source, that this is precisely the point of the well-known Shimon Ha-Misuni episode in the Gemara, where a Tanna spent his entire life interpreting scripture according to a specific method, only to recant late in life when he realized he was in error. What was so great about that? The answer is, it is very, very hard to shift your paradigms so late in life. That Shimon H-Misuini was able to do so was something worth highlighting.

    There are many Jewish baby boomers, reared on the mother’s milk of the New York Times and the FDR generation, who are 100% committed to the democratic party. Whether that was indeed the better party for the Jews or the country – for the tradition, held by the Chafetz Cahayim among others, is that the best party for the Jews is the best party for the country as a whole – is something I can’t say. But whether that was the case or not, today it is no longer. Objective people, not blinded by decades of devotion to a single party, will tell you that. Accordingly, it is all but pointless to debate the matter. It is simply a waste of time.

  30. david luchins says:

    Daniel- I never suggested or endorsed anything of the sort-unless you believe all Orthodox Jews live on vulnerable government programs.Most of my friends pay the taxes that support these programs’ Would just like everyone to pay their fair share!i

  31. david luchins says:

    DF-glad you have figured me out. Strange that I am being stereotyped by a fellow who rallies against stereotypes.Hope I din’t do the same.

  32. Bob Miller says:

    The Bush family had its own special relationship with the Saudis. It’s disingenuous to favor Obama on Israel in 2012 using some comparison with any Bush.

  33. Daniel says:

    I’m sorry; I must have misunderstood you then. I thought you argued that we should vote democrat because our community needs the money they provide us.

    “Yonasan is correct that we all need to sacrifice. But our community would be devastated by the Ryan/Romney Budget cuts in Medicaid (nursing home care for the elderly, in particular), food stamps, healthcare, WIC, housing (including Section 8), Pell and Homeland Security Grants, poverty assistance and middle class tax deductions, in order to provide millionaire and billionaire Republican contributors with lavish tax cuts. I, for one, do not consider that “shared sacrifice”.”

    Perhaps you meant that the rich among us should vote democrat so that our poor brethren will be taken care of?

    I don’t see how that is any better. Presumably the rich among us could also simply take the tax savings of a Romney/Ryan administration and give that to our poor brethren. Unless you think that the amounts our poor brethren get from the government exceeds the amount the rich voters will save, and that we can therefore effect a wealth transfer from outside out community to us. V’hadra kashia l’duchta

  34. BTG says:

    “The Bush family had its own special relationship with the Saudis”. Thanks for help making my point. Please excuse Obama, Rabbi Menken, he has a special relationship with Jeremiah Wright.

    Rabbi Luchins, thanks for agreeing with me. The reason I don’t include my real name, is not because of fear. It’s because there is so much vitriol and close-mindedness out there (as you have undoubtedly experienced), that it’s just not worth having your name dragged in the mud just to score an obvious point. It’s a shame, but that’s unfortunately how it works (Now if Cross-Currents were to offer me the chance to post an article, well that might change things).

  35. Yoel Schonfeld says:

    I love Dr Luchins on a personal level. There are few who are as politically astute as he is. But even a genius is entitled to be wrong. It should be noted that the good Dr debated my father ( Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld) years ago where he supported Carter for relection and my father Reagan. Much of his reasoning was in line with his support for Obama today.How would a second term of Carter (author of The Apartheid Wall)worked out for Israel..and The USA?

  36. david luchins says:

    WHOA!!!!BTG-I am not a “Rabbi” and please don”t call me names. 2. Reb Yoel- I never supported Jimmy Carter (voted against him twice -Ford and then Anderson) I debated your father in 1984 on behalf of Walter Mondale at the request of the OU that needed a program. I have not voted for a second term President since Nixon (am remain proud of that vote, as I am of my vote for Mondale-scroll above and reread my Reagan litany.3.Daniel-forgive me, but I don’t follow your logic. If you’d be willing to “come out” to me I’d be happy to talk to you.

  37. Daniel says:

    I cannot explain better. Why don’t you tell us what you meant in the paragraph I quoted. Who were you talking to, and what was the argument that they (the people to whom you are speaking) should want to vote for Obama.

    I’m not sure what you mean “come out”.

    [YA – He means use your real identity instead of hiding behind a screen name. Many writers feel a responsibility to respond – even multiple times – to critical readers, but only when those readers will use their real names. Too many of the anonymous kind are in it for the game, not for learning.]

  38. Yoel Schonfeld says:

    Whoops! My error. While my recollection was that Dr Luchins debated my father in support of Carter, he is correct. It was actually in support of Mondale . Thankfully Mondale’s record in dealing with Israel and his leadership of the US as president will never be known, though we can assume it would be the same as most liberals. But there is no way he would have equaled the incompetence and mean spiritedness of Jimmy Carter.
    My apologies to Dr Luchins for committing momentary slander against him by suggesting that he supported arguably the worst president in US history. I am glad to stand corrected. I am only sorry that for all these years I had the wrong recollection in my mind.

  39. Ahron says:

    I think Dr. Luchins’s arguments here tend to avoid several of the issues; and there’s one where he seems to be making a novel claim out of whole cloth.

    “Yonasan is correct that we all need to sacrifice. But our community would be devastated by the Ryan/Romney Budget cuts in…”

    What is one to make of such logic? ‘Of course I’d LOVE to allow my allotments to be cut like everyone else’s, but you must understand the cuts would hit ME especially hard…’ Every resident from every sub-group receiving “much-needed” cash and favors can make the same plea — and every such plea is irrelevant to the mathematics that paint the inconvenient truth; that the USA is now more bankrupt than any company or nation has ever been in human history.

    What moral right does the Jewish community or any other constituency have to demand that the larger nation-state bankrupt itself so as to compensate for their own sub-community’s socio-economic dysfunction?

    Even now, there is no evident way for the USA to dig itself out of permanent debt subservience. And Democrats insist that the US government has a moral obligation….to now spend yet more money and accumulate greater debt! How can any serious person take such thinking seriously?

    The claim that Republican insistence on a sustainable budget is intended “to provide millionaire and billionaire Republican contributors with lavish tax cuts” is one of the laziest and most corrosive memes peddled by Democrats since Pres. Obama took office, and as a nation we’ll be suffering from the toxicity of this canard long after he’s left the White House.

    I’m a recent higher-ed student (earning a *low* 5-figure income this year) and am horrified by Obama’s and the broader Democrats’ deployment of the stinking bromides of class-warfare, envy and mutual resentment. I frankly would have thought such malign demagoguery beneath the dignity of Dr. Luchins, whom I met several times when I was a student in NCSY.

    Regarding Dr. Rice (who IMO was a mediocre and pedestrian Secretary of State) I’ve been unable to find any backing whatsoever of Dr. Luchins’s claim that she criticized Obama “for ‘failing to shrink Israel’ as she boasts Bush did in Gaza.”

    Dr. Luchins calls such verbiage “chilling”. Indeed. But when and where was it uttered? And why has no politician, policy analyst, journalist or scholar (or Google) ever taken note of it before Dr. Luchins in Cross-Currents? In short: is there a documentary source for this incendiary putative quotation? Or….is it a fabricated scare tactic against Republicans?

    And I read the same WSJ article that Dr. Luchins did re: the Romney fundraiser in Utah. Rice and Baker appeared with about a dozen other Republican foreign policy wonks. Standard “big tent” fundraising. Not a big deal and not very interesting. IMO much less worrisome than many of the people with whom Obama chooses to surround himself.

  40. Bob Miller says:

    BTG missed my point, and I’m writing this to clarify it. The Bushes should not be excused for pandering to their Saudi business partners. However, Obama has far nore baggage than that, such as his longtime relationships with radical Muslims and leftists, and his being groomed for political success by the terrorist Bill Ayers, not to mention his negative policies as President. My point was that, on Israel, Obama’s policies should be measured against what these should be, not against the Bushes’ policies.

  41. BTG says:

    Mr. Miller, I got your point the first time. My point was that one’s man Saudi Family (and it’s not just the Jihad-loving, Wahhabi-supporting Saudis as you contend, it’s also several noted anti-Israel staff members including Caspar Weinberger, James Baker and John Sununu) is another man’s Jeremiah Wright. And while Obama has disavowed any support for Rev. Wright (I know, I know – Obama really loves him and is waiting to win a second term so he can revert to his “old self” and unleash a wave of anti-Israel and anti Semitic policies), the Bushes never have (George W. Bush never held the hand of an Israeli politician. Can you imagine if Obama did that to the Saudi king like Bush did?). My point, again, is that in REALITY, Obama’s policies toward Israel have been just as good historically towards Isreal (and really better on average) as any recent President. It’s your preconceived notions of him (and again, I don’t expect to move you on this) that have not changed.

  42. Bob Miller says:

    BTG, While we’re on the topic of Saudi kings, President Obama actually bowed to this one:

    I can imagine what you’d be saying if President Bush had done this.

  43. david luchins says:

    Ahron-happy to send you the Rice article. Just send me your address . Or you can Google “Rice” and “shrink Israel” or read her I did.Sorry you are annoyed. So am I.Brief blog postings don’t do justice to nuances , which is why I don’t ever plan to post an article agsain if I can help it.

  44. BTG says:

    Mr. Miller, the difference is that I don’t have any delusional and conspiratorial feelings about George W. Bush. I thought he was a fine (if over-rated) friend to Israel. I don’t subscribe to all the paranoid lefty fringe stuff about him (like planning 9/11, knowing there were no WMDs in Iraq). Much the way I wish the right would be a little more rational about Obama. You don’t have to agree with his policies to realize he’s not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel (or from Kenya if you’re that loopy).

  45. Ahron says:

    Dr. Luchins, I did the Googling as soon as I read your article because I was shocked that a recent SecState could have used such incendiary and virtually colonialist language. I Googled high and low and couldn’t find the quote anywhere. Nor could I find any article documenting language that would have caused a weeks-long media sensation.

    I haven’t read her autobio yet and likely won’t get to it for some time….. As mentioned I was wholly unimpressed with her service in office.

    I hope you do continue speaking and posting articles! You have a lot to say about the American political system and the Jewish community. In addition to the educational value IMO it’s beneficial for all sides to clarify differences.

  46. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Ahron: The URL is The problem is that nowhere in the article is Condi Rice quoted as saying she wanted to “shrink Israel,” but her intent is pretty clear. Especially when she boasts that US pressure forced Ariel Sharon to abandon Gaza.

  47. Yaakov Menken says:

    Yes, that’s the same article I linked in the comments to mine.

    There is no news source or other web site which claims that Rice expressed or implied that she wanted to “shrink Israel.” It is simply how “Indy News Israel” wanted to spin her remarks. Nowhere did she “boast” that she and Bush forced Sharon out of Gaza — rather, the “Indy News” compared what they did to the way Carter “coerced” Begin to leave the Sinai. Yes, these peace plans require Israeli withdrawals. Yes, that means Israel will be smaller. But misguided “peace” efforts (which began, of course, with Bill Clinton) do not an anti-Israel posture make.

    See here for more straightforward coverage of her book. The proposal that would have shrunk Israel was Olmert’s; she could hardly believe her ears, she was shocked that he would go so far. Rice simply blames Obama for keeping the process at a standstill, a position with which even Mahmoud Abbas concurs.

    Even though a stall is the best circumstance we could hope for, it certainly wasn’t Obama’s intent. He wanted to force Israel to bow to the Palestinians before talks continued, opposing Israel to an extent we haven’t seen since Jimmy Carter. But — perhaps unlike Carter, who successfully brokered peace with Egypt — Obama was completely out of his depth, had no understanding of the parties involved, and believed his own verbiage too much. “Lev Melachim B’Yad Hashem” — his incompetence worked in Israel’s favor. For this, Dr. Luchins and Mr. Reisman want us to vote for him!

    Again, Romney was caught on hidden camera saying what we all know to be true: the Palestinians don’t truly want peace, except via the destruction of Israel. If the talks are now at a halt because of Obama’s bumbling and antipathy towards Israel, Romney will keep them there because he recognizes that these talks neither protect Israel nor lead to peace. His speech was published by Mother Jones, a partisan left-wing site, because they knew that Democrats, supporters of the party that doesn’t want US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, will vote against Romney for saying the truth.

  48. BTG says:

    Yaakov Menken, I think if you wanted to show Obama’s intense opposition (maybe hatred is more appropriate) to Israel, then you were using the wrong link. This is one is better:

    [Right point, wrong article: –YM]

  49. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    I do not expect Yaakov Menken to vote for President Obama. I only wish he would be more honest about his reasons for voting Republican. Like most of the frum community, he espouses the hard-right philosophy of today’s Republican party. That being the case, he would vote Republican no matter what Obama (or Romney for that matter) said or did about Israel.

  50. Phil says:

    An Opinion piece in yesterday’s Hamodia Daily (page D34) makes a calm and factual case that all voters who care about Israel should consider:

  51. Yaakov Menken says:

    Mr. Reisman has demonstrated that the use of ad personam* simply proves that the speaker has no valid argument left. Dr. Luchins did the same, saying my arguments were “shrill” simply because he couldn’t rebut them. It’s also quite hypocritical to chide the Orthodox for being “hard-right”, given the extent to which Jews mindlessly vote democratic even when the other candidate is much more friendly to our interests (McCain).

    Without question I believe that the party that is generally more pro-Israel and more pro-religious rights today is the Republicans, but that’s not always true — George HW Bush, for example, was no friend of Israel, and I recall one Anglo-Israeli radio host who spoke for most Americans then in Israel (including myself) when he hoped “the Bush will burn” and Clinton would win. With Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, it’s not even close.

    *Ad Personam: [Latin, To the person.] A term used in debate to denote an argument made personally against an opponent, instead of against the opponent’s argument.

  52. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    To Rabbi Menken: I have no argument left because we have no common basis upon which to argue. You have your set of facts, and I have mine, and never the twain shall meet. However, I stand by the point I have made numerous times on Cross-Currents: The Orthodox Jewish community has adopted the right-wing positions of the Republican party as its own, and will vote Republican no matter what. Reasons will be devised to justify it later. Also, I don’t see how I am hypocritical for pointing this out even if “most Jews mindlessly vote Democratic.” After all, most Jews in America are not Orthodox. Finally, I would never claim that someone who disagrees with my point of view, “really does not need a voting booth, but a padded room.”

    To Phil: I read the Hamodia piece per your suggestion. It doesn’t say anything about President Obama that Hamodia has not been saying for the last four years. It’s just more of the same.

  53. Yaakov Menken says:

    You have your set of facts, and I have mine, and never the twain shall meet.

    That’s the first mistake. Facts are facts, whether or not one chooses to ignore them in favor of a dream.

    I would never claim that someone who disagrees with my point of view, “really does not need a voting booth, but a padded room.”

    That’s good to hear. Neither would I, of course, as the reader may discern for him or herself.

  54. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Rabbi Menken: The problem is that each of us sees a different set of facts. Ergo, we cannot argue on a common basis. You see me as ignoring facts in favor of a dream. I see you as either ignoring facts or twisting them to fit your prejudices. As to the comment about a padded room, that is a quote from your post answering Dr. Luchins. What was its purpose if not to characterize those who disagree with you?

  55. Yaakov Menken says:

    OK, we have now reached the “beating a dead horse” stage, and I will try to refrain from further comment. The problem with Mr. Reisman’s latest is that he has presented only one “fact,” seconded from Dr. Luchins: that Condi Rice said she wanted to “shrink Israel.” That fact isn’t a fact at all, as I explained previously, and is irrelevant as well, given that she isn’t Mitt Romney. So what facts does Mr. Reisman think I’m ignoring? He hasn’t shared them.

    My quote about a padded room was in the context of a specific point. Surely Mr. Reisman, being an intelligent, sane, and rational individual, appreciates the difference between what President Obama said when he thought he wasn’t being recorded, and what Governor Romney said. He just chooses to set this aside and believe that Obama is a great friend of Israel who is just disguising it awfully well. Intelligent people can ignore facts in favor of a dream, but that doesn’t make them insane.

  56. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    Rabbi Menken seems to ignore Rice’s record both as national security advisor and as secretary of state. She was no great friend of Israel, no matter what she writes in her memoirs. I do remember what the English language Israeli press wrote about her back then. Any case, I’m not arguing that President Obama is a great friend of Israel. All I argue is that US policy under him will not be substantially different than it would be under Mitt Romney. And given the Republican position on domestic issues, I’ll take the President over Mitt Rommey any time. (And let’s not get into “facts” presented by Rabbi Menken in his post. Massachusetts voters did not elect Scott Brown senator for the sole purpose of defeating Obamacare. Massachusetts voters have less stake in Obamacare than anyone else in the country, thanks to Romneycare, which no one in Massachusetts wants to repeal. And if you think Paul Ryan really has a plan to shrink Medicare growth, you have your own twist on facts that I can’t argue with.)

  57. david luchins says:

    Verily, I am starting to see the wisdom of those who have warned us of the dangers of the internet. I am saddened by the amount of time apparently intelligent people spend talking past each other in this echo chamber.

  58. Bob Miller says:

    Rice was nearly as bad as Hillary Clinton with respect to Israel. At any rate, we already know Obama’s Israel policy is wrong on balance and even in tone. Romney’s has a significant chance of being better.

  59. Reb Yid says:

    If last night’s “debate” showed anything at all, it was Romney pretty much agreeing with Obama on his foreign policy, per Lawrence Reisman’s earlier post on the subject. No “daylight” to be found, that’s for sure.

  60. Yossel says:

    It is a fact that Rice pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in PA elections. It is also a fact that she comapared the Palestinian condition to South African Apartheid:
    [Google: jta rice veep]

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