I admit it. I like Jeffrey Goldberg.
He is funny and smart. To take just one small example, without his clever exegesis of The Sopranos, I would have gotten lost in the plot, and his insights unveiled for me nuances and allusions that made me the hit of dinner parties.
Most important of all, Goldberg, though a leftist, is a strong advocate for Israel. His is not my version of a secure Israel, but his voice is needed on the Left in the dangerous world of Israel-hatred.
However, sometimes our Jeffrey is a little weird. Just this week, he has become a spokesman for the flaming Israel-basher Tony Kushner, who, to the credit of the City University of New York, was denied an honorary degree. And then there was his Talmudic sermon after the death of bin Laden on not rejoicing at the death of a killer. It’s not the Jewish way, you see. (Ezekiel 18:23 et al.)
Earlier problematic examples come to mind: Who can fathom his strange attack on Glenn Beck—“Glenn Beck’s Jewish Problem,” he called it. Or his January column in which he made the mind-boggling claim that peace would not come to Israel without a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. And let’s not even get started on his smarmy visit to Fidel Castro last September.
Today, however, we must hold our erratic Jeffrey’s feet to the fire. What are we to make of his remarks this week contrasting Obama with Bush? The scene is the White House situation room, and for some reason Jeffrey uses this mise-en-scene to create a larger metaphor for strength versus weakness. He speaks of the “amazing” photo of the President and his advisers in the situation room:
Why amazing? Because the President seems so small and peripheral to the action. He is hunched down, seated on the margins of the meeting, seemingly trying not to take up space….I was struck, when I saw this photo, that the Bush White House would have [n]ever released a similar photograph. This is not to cast aspersions on Bush, but could you seriously imagine his public relations releasing an image of him leading from behind, as it were?
This is not to cast aspersions on Bush? Are you kidding? But Jeffrey apparently needs ratification of this abysmal slur, so he turns to David Brooks, of all people:
I was just talking to David Brooks, and he, too, was struck by this photo. He noted that the President most likely had to move seats to see the screen, but he did not move to a central seat, but to a small chair against the wall. [Their interpretation] is that the President is so confident in his power that he is comfortable even in a corner. This speaks well of him, to my mind; a president who kills America’s enemies without swagger is better than a swaggerer who doesn’t kill America’s enemies.
What? It takes a while for this to sink in, so fallacious, so slanderous, and so crude is it. But before we look at the “amazing” photo itself, we must stop briefly to imagine the crucial non-photo, the one that would prove not only to us conspiracy theorists, but to the world and to history, that bin Laden is in fact dead. Even his dirty little finger would have done the trick. But because Obama didn’t want to “spike the football,” we have no ocular proof, as Othello would have said; and the fact that, like Luca Brasi, Osama sleeps with the fishes, is the fishiest part of all. (Actually, the fishiest part may be that, according to the MEMRI website, the sliding of Osama into the sea is against Shariah law.)
No, not the non-photo; we return to the real one, the “revealing” photo of our mighty commander-in-chief, “so confident in his power” that he can cower fetally on the periphery of the situation room. The real backstory behind this photo may never be known, but Wesley Pruden writes this week that, according to Leon Panetta, “24 minutes of the 40-minute video were ‘blacked out’ by some kind of electronic malfunction.” Then too, it has been alleged (see Socyberty.com and others) that it was Panetta, David Petraeus, Hillary Clinton, and others who had already devised and initiated a raid on the compound, but were faced with President Hamlet’s habitual indecision, accentuated by his mortal fear of offending the Muslim world. Bolstered by his advisor-in-fear Valerie Jarrett, he had succeeded in stalling the operation until it was clear, even to him, that he must vote, even if only to vote present. Thus, the photo can be interpreted in a diametrically opposite way to Goldberg’s lofty commentary.
Then there is Jeffrey’s incomprehensible contrast between the non-swagger and the swagger. Does he truly believe that Obama “kills America’s enemies without swagger,” while Bush is “a swaggerer who doesn’t kill America’s enemies”? Such a calumny would suggest someone in serious denial, perhaps even delusional. In the first place, as is obvious to everyone, on the Left or on the Right, indeed “to anyone with common sense, and not ruled by partisan emotion,” as Paul Kengor writes, “Bush’s policies made the capture possible. They were the same policies that Senator Obama and an ever-enraged left employed to take down Bush.”
Had Senator Obama only left this odious left-wing baggage at the White House door upon taking office, we could forgive him, but until this day he is in favor of indicting the very interrogators who made the raid on bin Laden possible. (On this matter, see his rude dismissal of Debra Burlingame, sister of the pilot of one of the 9/11 planes.) Not to mention his hypocritical approval of those “enhanced interrogation techniques” which he had only yesterday so vehemently condemned; his leaking in 2009 of classified memoranda describing these “harsh” techniques; his continuation of Bush programs such as military trials, the camp at Guantanamo, and other Bush policies he has deceitfully co-opted to buy himself an undeserved place in history. In short, bin Laden is dead because Obama followed in Bush’s footsteps.
And then, as if everyone were not aware of the truth, Obama proceeded to swagger as nobody—well, perhaps only Donald Trump–can swagger. His moment of glory “arrived on May 1, 2011,” writes Kengor, when he “was able to announce to the world, in a statement with at least 14 first-person references, that Osama bin Laden was dead. Those 14 self-references were 14 more than any Obama thanks to Bush.”
But what about that maligned “swaggerer who doesn’t kill America’s enemies”? George Bush is such a swaggerer that when he was invited to the flashy Obama photo-op at Ground Zero, he quietly declined. According to the Wall Street Journal, “President Bush…appreciated the invite, but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight,” said spokesman David Sherzer. “He continues to celebrate with all Americans this important victory in the war on terror.”
And if this same swaggerer didn’t “kill America’s enemies,” who, pray, was responsible for what Kengor calls “a legion of Islamist ghosts”? This “roster of corpses” includes Saddam Hussein, Uday Hussein, Qusay Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, and many more, the removal of whom made the world a better place.
And although Bush inherited the bin Laden menace from President Clinton, who, according to analyst Michael Scheuer, had numerous opportunities to capture or kill him, Bush never stopped trying to hunt him down. “Bush never quit,” writes Larry Elder. “He was briefed on bin Laden at least once a week.” And to the end he knew bin Laden would “of course, absolutely” be tracked down, because it was he who had laid the groundwork.
On September 11, 2008, Quin Hillyer wrote an essay thanking Bush for seven years of fortitude and foresight. “Seven years. Zero attacks. And almost zero credit.” He was especially grateful for the hard choices Bush made:
Bush stood tallest when Iraq fell into its worst chaos. Even when almost all the top military advisers continued to stubbornly advocate a failed plan, Bush insisted on victory and found a strategy to achieve it. The “surge” of course has worked wonders, and Iraq is now likely to be a success…and it would not have happened if the president had not shown leadership.
Jeffrey, this is the true legacy of the “swaggerer.” Shame on you.