obama.jpgIn his “On Language” column for The New York Times a few months back, William Safire addressed presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s adept skills at finessing language. It was a thoughtful and insighftul piece (whose link I’ll get later on) about how one word’s connotation and furthermore its placement in a sentence can alter the discourse of meaning. This is not exactly rocket science I realize. In the piece, however, Safire drew comparisons with other presidential candidates and showed the difference in how Obama described certain global issues versus his opponents. In short, the thesis of Safire’s piece was that Obama is a master manipulator of the English language. (as are most of the more successful politicians)

It’s not news that Obama draws a lot of Hollywoodlefty lobbyists Jewish support. So how does a man whose stepfather was Jewish and who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia finesse his Muslim affinities with Jewish supporters?

It’s all about the language:

Obama said he has probably gotten more support from Jewish donors, although he actively seeks support from Muslim Americans as well. But he said those Jews who have known him the longest would testify “that I haven’t just talked the talk, I’ve walked the walk when it comes to Israel’s security.”

Obama said while he is committed to protecting Israel’s security, he would also reach out to Arab leaders who are committed to recognizing Israel and renouncing violence. He did not repeat the position he took last month while campaigning in Iowa – that he supports relaxing restrictions on aid to the Palestinian people because “nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

Obama went on to say of his quasi-native land, “If I go to Jakarta and address the largest Muslim country on earth, I can say, `Apa kabar,’ – you know, `How are you doing?’ – and they can recognize that I understand their common humanity,” Obama said. “That is a strength, and it allows me to say things to them that other presidents might not be able to say. And that’s part of what’s promising, I think, about this presidency.”

Hmmm….Sounds to me like Obama’s being a tad too transparent with his towing of Jewish-Muslim alliances, not to mention his platitudes. Give it a rest!

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  • But he said those Jews who have known him the longest would testify “that I haven’t just talked the talk, I’ve walked the walk when it comes to Israel’s security.”

    I liked that part — the Illinois state senate does what for Israel’s security, exactly?

  • Obama isn’t all that left wing on Israel. He believes in a two state solution, strengthening Palestinian moderates and isolating Hamas. Not much different than the current administration, no? Check out his AIPAC speech… http://tinyurl.com/2sfqra

    He isn’t such a dove on Iran either…


    Obama is – without a doubt – good for the Jews.

  • Barak Hussein Obama has been in the forefront of local news here in Hawaii because of his graduation from Honolulu’s prestigious Punaho’u School. His stances have not really come into play.

    His multi-cultural, multi-religious upbringing and multi-racial background are the stars, not the issues or his experience.

    My opinion, as simple as it sounds, is that Jews here will endorse him because he is a dem and a “minority.” And in their simple worldview, a “minority” can do no wrong.
    Damn the man!

    Finally, I’d wager that he is looked upon favorably by Muslim leaders – who probably feel that once in place, Allah will call him back to his Islamic childhood experiences – and PRESTO! Okay – forget the wager, that’s probably a bit of a stretch… but if Ahmadinejad had his chance at the polls, who do you think he’d vote for? 😉

  • It seems to me that concerns about platitudes are a just a bit captious in the context of a public discourse dominated by nigger-hating, queer-baiting, war-mongering propagandists like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Neil Boortz, Sean Hannity, and on and on and on. Unfortunately, there are a number of American Jews that figure prominently among those who wallow in such hatred and malevolence, those who think their use of empty euphemisms to cover their transparent racism is really clever and adorable. You know, like the scumbags who refer to Joe Lieberman as the Senator from Tel Aviv; or impugn the loyalty of Jewish politicians by referring to Jonathan Pollard; or who suggest some association between Barack Obama and terrorists by virtue of his Muslim upbringing. On the other hand, I regard it as a matter of great pride that such racists represent the absolute dregs of Jewish society, and that the overwhelming majority of American Jews recoil in disgust from such McCarthyism.

  • What exactly is the problem you’re seeking to address here? That Obama has ties to a Muslim country? How is that a problem??

    Seems to me that the issue is the prejudice of the person who posted this…

  • Wow, talk about aggressive and serious accusations and allegations: “prejudice of the person who posted this” and “transparent racism” reveal a pretty assertive position in a post that had neither prejudice nor racism. Is this how pro-Obama folks are going to address anybody who brings up his Muslim connections during a time when, whether we like it or not, America is at war with parts of the Islamic world and while antisemitism is rife within many parts of the Islamic world?

    Beth, fyi, Obama’s stepfather is not Jewish. He is (was?) a Muslim, as were his father and grandfather. His brother also became a Muslim many years ago. Obama grew up for at least some years studying the Koran in Indonesia in what he calls a “Muslim school” (in his first book). He was brought up by a mother who apparently felt little connection with religion, and he himself seems to be Christian, although not particularly devout or connected to the faith. He was a big fan of Malcolm X in his youth.

    All of this, of course, is supposedly unimportant, and apparently some feel that it is racist and prejudiced to bring up this background about a potential President of the USA.

    I have to say that there’s some serious hypocrisy here. Bush’s strong assertion of his Christian faith was a clear target of his opponents on the Left – that’s right, many of the same people who now support Obama – during his campaigns and during his tenure as President. His faith and background have undeniably influenced his policies and significant choices such as his nominations for the Supreme Court.

    Just as questions about Bush’s faith and background were and are legitimate, so are questions about Obama and every other Presidential candidate. Color, faith and sex are not going to serve as condoms here, this is the Presidency we’re talking about.

    To remind you, David and Matt, this post refers to Obama speaking to the National Jewish Democratic Council where he was asked by an audience member about his support among Muslims and Arab-Americans. Listen carefully to how the question is phrased precisely to avoid the kind of dirty accusations made here:

    “We are obviously friends with all of them [ed. – Muslims and Arab-Americans],” Seidemann said. “However, when it comes to Israel and push comes to shove, how can you make us, as Jews, totally comfortable in addressing the issues in Israel and moving toward what no president has been able to do and that is establish a peace?”

    Underlying that question is a perfectly legitimate concern that the beliefs and interests of groups identified with both the Muslim and Arab-American community – both of which include many groups and members that openly speak out against not just Israel, but the Jewish community of America – may be closer to this Presidential candidate’s heart than the Jewish constituents to whom he is speaking that night or in general.

    Yes, the question takes on a greater importance because he was raised for some years in a Muslim country and in a Muslim school. And yes, he needs to respond to it, as he is quoted doing (and as he recognizes).

    The question of whether he means what he says and is believable in his response is what is under consideration here. What does he really believe and how is he going to act if he gets my vote instead of Hillary is what every member of the National Jewish Democratic Council should be asking him/herself and this is a legitimate avenue of questioning, just as it would be if Lieberman were to run for office in Michigan and were to be confronted by Muslim voters there about whether his faith and support for Israel would serve their interests.

    And if Beth chooses to dismiss Obama’s assertions in this forum as “platitudes,” it won’t be the first time in the history of politics that an individual dismisses the claims of a politician. It has nothing to do with racism or prejudice.

  • Middle said:

    I have to say that there’s some serious hypocrisy here. Bush’s strong assertion of his Christian faith was a clear target of his opponents on the Left – that’s right, many of the same people who now support Obama – during his campaigns and during his tenure as President. His faith and background have undeniably influenced his policies and significant choices such as his nominations for the Supreme Court.

    Muffti fails to see how faith, colour and condoms are on a par. Bush’s faith is a potential (and in Bush’s case rather sucessful) of the sort of policies he would pursue. Especially since he made his faith such a show piece of his campaign. He ensured that his faith was part of hte public discourse and that his presidency would be run as a christian believer.

    Why does colour serve as an indicator of policy? Or a way to judge how the presidency will be run? It’s a phhysical fact not a dogma? Perhaps muffti is confused however about what you meant.

  • You don’t think a black candidate is going to be heavily involved in issues related to civil rights, diversity, affirmative action, development of urban cores, etc.? Of course they are. You don’t think a woman candidate is going to be interested in the question of equal pay, maternity leave and affirmative action? You don’t think that an observant Jew or Christian is going to be swayed toward policies that reflect their background and faith? Of course they are.

    The question isn’t whether a candidate is influenced by their background and upbringing, the questions are how and to what degree.

    My point above, however, relates more to the issue of using the identity of a candidate as a shield. In other words, you defend any discussion of Obama’s background by asserting that it stems from prejudice; you deny any discussion of Lieberman’s policy beliefs by claiming that they are the result of antisemitism; you prevent criticism of Hillary Clinton by claiming that it reflects the sexism of the person who is making the inquiry. Wouldn’t you want to be able to ask Hillary if her position on abortion has something to do with her sex and whether the women at NOW can expect that some of their ideas will be reflected in her policies without being called a sexist because you’d never ask a man that question? Hillary can always answer that she rejects NOW’s platform, but the question itself is perfectly legitimate and should be.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t limits. There are. There is a line to be crossed with any candidate where bigotry or antisemitism or sexism may lie behind assertions or questions. The question is where that line stands and I think most reasonable people can figure it out.

  • Yes… I sat near the man who asked Obama on Tuesday afternoon the question on the support he gets from adherents to Islam. I happened to also be sitting near one of his Jewish fundraising Directors. I thought Obama handled the question well. He reported that his support from the Jewish community is large and that he walked the walk on Israel’s security, which is “fundamental” and in America’s interest. His use of alliteration was above average, saying that he would stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in a clear eyed, hard headed search of peace and security. He welcomes $$ for all groups, and let’s be serious, his support from the Jewish community far outstrips any funds from the Arab American community. He also had some good one liners, like “arm sales is not a peace plan”, that his roots in Indonesia and a grandmother in Africa are strengths, and that the status quo of fear and violence in the Middle East is not inevitable.

  • I think he’s doing remarkably well and is proving to be a real challenger to Hillary. He may just get the nomination, depending upon whose voters Edwards is stealing. The question will be whether either he or Hillary have a realistic chance of winning in ’08, but while she brings deep experience to the table, he brings charisma which she lacks. It’s going to be a tough choice for Democrats, but it’s a good situation to be in with two strong candidates.

  • Shame on Beth for refusing to line up behind Middle for the Barack Kool-Aid.

    The platitudes are likely to be the same, aren’t they– and not just on Israel, but on Iran, non-proliferation, Putin, Darfur, etc. etc. But as Barack himself observes, what happens when the rubber meets the road– and the driver belongs to a party increasingly drifting toward a lefty skepticism of American power?

  • Tom, Tom, Tom, I actually prefer Hillary to Obama. I just think he’s more charismatic and definitely brings less baggage to the table. Of course, she brings far more experience to the table…

    As for the leftward drift of the Dems, I trust that a Democratic President having to deal with the reality of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will stop that drift immediately. Poor Obama, if elected, will end up fighting Bush’s War but even more hamstrung because every day he fights will be perceived as a day of betrayal of his own words and values. In that regard, at least Clinton has far less to worry about.

  • Tom,

    It’s not a skepticism of American power. It’s a skepticism of the current Administration’s endemic corruption and mind-numbing incompetence.

  • Hillary’s more of a mainstream, establishment figure than Obama; after all, she voted for the Iraq war. Perhaps the dynamic of the campaign will cause her to list to the right.

    Maybe you’re right, EV, but as Middle says, whoever succeeds Bush with have to deal with Iraq and Afghanistan– not to mention Ahmadinejad, Hamas’s impending rocket offensive against southern Israel, the fall of the Saudi royal family, an Islamic regime in Egypt, among other headaches….

  • Tom, Hillary mainstream? She’s leftist through and through. As far as experience, she doesn’t have any, except in the cattle futures business. She’s never run anything, and when she tried (national heath care) it went up in smoke.

    David Smith, I don’t know who you are referring to when you use those adjectives, but if you ever spent any serious time listenting to the people you mentioned, you’d realize that it’s really not at all the case. (i’m leaving Michael Savage out. There’s plenty wrong with him even if it’s not the things you claimed.)
    Sure some of the others can go off the top sometimes, but you’ve made accusations that are unfair, and really don’t have much to do with the topic.
    BTW, if you listened to some of the people you’d find they’re a lot more interesting than the Air America bunch. Limbaugh is actually quite good, even if he does on occasion run with stories when they first come out and before all the facts are in.

  • IC– I’m speculating that, if we’re to put the best face on it, Hillary will have to earn a measure of foreign/defense policy cred by relying on such eminent sages as Richard Holbrooke and Lee Hamilton and whomever else may be left in the Democratic policy establishment. She did vote for the Iraq war, after all– unlike Barack.

    The burden befalls Hillary and the other 783 Democratic presidential candidates to articulate a different way forward– if they can– rather than simply bash Bush.

  • Tom, Hillary will be beholden to the MoveOn.org crowd. She’ll also have people like Warren Christopher, Sandy Burger, and Madeline Albright as her advisors, and Jimmy Carter will be a roving ambassador. Now that is scary.

  • Ichabod,

    Better that than to be beholden to Saudi Arabia and to have people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Wolfowitz as her advisors, with John Bolton as her roving amassador. Now that wouldn’t just be scary. It would be suicide on a national scale.

  • I realize that it isn’t Middlish to agree with one side of a partisan battle of this sort but EV is right. And Tom, Hillary is on the the Committee on Armed Services in the Senate and has been since 2000. That doesn’t buy cred with Republicans, perhaps, but considering that she was also an active First Lady for 8 years, she brings more such experience to the table than any other major candidate other than McCain. Of course, with McCain you get a true conservative and with Hillary you get a centrist with sympathies to the Left.

  • Middle, check out today’s NY Times about Barack’s wacky-Christian preacher pal.

  • I read it.

    It’s interesting that so many members of his family come from or have returned to Islam but somehow this preacher resonated with Obama to this degree.

    In any case, I don’t think the issue of faith will define Obama or taint him. If people keep calling him “Hussein,” that might cause some harm on the other hand. What’s fascinating is the trouble he’s giving Hillary who was assumed to be a shoo-in. Her campaign is running a little scared right now and just trying very hard to maintain her momentum in the face of his onslaught. If she stumbles even once, that could be very bad for her. On the other hand, he is running as an underdog, hasn’t tripped up yet, has managed to secure some serious backers and funders, and has managed to position himself as a serious contender to the Anointed One. I suspect that if he can win over a large chunk of the Democratic African American vote – which Hillary assumed (justly) was going to be hers – she could well lose the primaries.

  • Hillary’s got all of her husband’s triangulating caution, and none of his charm and ease in dealing with people. Her learning curve in her campaign’s going to be quite steep; she’s really never had to learn retail politics, having scored two easy wins in NY. And in Obama, she’s confronting an obviously polished, charismatic figure. The smart money’s got to be on Obama at this point. He’s going to get the moveon.org people, African-Americans, a healthy slice of Jewish Democrats….. A formidable opponent.

    On the other hand, Hillary can argue that she’s somewhat less inexperienced than he is in foreign and defense policy.

  • Tom, spoken like a true lawyer at the end there…

    Hillary is also a veteran of DC battles and has spent 8 years ingratiating herself to Republicans. While this will not count for much in either a primary or Presidential campaign, it makes her much better suited to become President. We’ve already seen the starry-eyed novice Dem arrive in the Presidency only to be squashed by partisan Republicans. The lad’s name was Clinton. Obama will suffer a similar fate.

  • Of course a candidate’s religion is an issue. I would absolutely never vote for a devout Muslim, and I assume Lieberman didn’t get too many of the Allah hu Akbar crowd to vote for him either. And it is an article of faith on the Left that devout Christians (anti-abortion, anti- gay marriage, anti-All That Is Good) are Bad News and must be fought. What do you think the panic about Bush’s Supreme Court judges is all about? If they’re Too Christian, they’ll overturn Roe v. Wade and send us all back to the Middle Ages and the Inquisition.

    The idea that a person’s religion and his political views (politics is just personal morality writ large) can somehow be magicaly separated and not affect one another is just ludicrous.

    Hillary is nothing but an opportunist. She’ll say and do anything to get elected.

    And Obama’s skin color is simply not an issue. Anyway, according to many of the self-appointed Guardians of Blackness such as Stanley Crouch, Obama isn’t even black.

    That is, he’s of partial African descent, but he isn’t actually Black.

    People actually discuss this seriously, believe it or not. There’s a hilarious clip of Steven Colbert taking apart Debra Dickerson on this issue. I know it’s on You Tube, but I can’t find it.

  • Ephraim, take a look at the above-cited Times article on Obama’s favorite preacher, who somehow manages to combine Christianity with the very best the Nation of Islam has to offer.

  • Yeah, I read the mission statement on his chruch’s website. That ought to get him the white vote hands down, dontcha think?

    However, I saw a headline the other day that says the relationship between Obama and the preacher there is “strained”.

    How convenient. And just in time, too.

  • Just a minor difference over, you know, theology, politics, stuff like that.

  • Sadece Türkiye’de ki de?il dünyan?n dört bir kö?esindeki camilere, cami hal?lar?m?z? ula?t?rarak fark?m?z? ve kalitemizi referanslar?m?zla belli ediyoruz.