An Israeli Take on the Upcoming U.S. Elections

by Brian on October 10, 2008

in In the News

I just received my absentee ballot for the upcoming U.S. elections in the mail and I’m psyched. Yes, I know that some critics will question whether an American living outside the country has the moral right to vote for a president of a country in which he is no longer living. But I plan on exercising my democratic right. So, here’s my take on U.S. politics – from an Israeli point of view.

First of all, it’s clear – even from here – that this November’s presidential elections represent a perhaps unique opportunity to steer the U.S. in a new direction, one that can help move the country away the political, social and economic animosity that has increasingly divided Americans. Both candidates know this – from Barack Obama’s repeated calls for “change” to John McCain’s positioning as a “maverick.”

On the international stage, the world is at a crossroads. From the war in Iraq to the potential of not only a nuclear Iran, but nuclear armed terrorists who would be even less afraid of using weapons of mass destruction. Al Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah are anything but on the retreat. Terror in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan is back in the news. Whichever candidate wins in November will have no choice but to address these threats quickly and decisively.

The catastrophe on Wall Street is also waiting for the kind of guidance only a new president can provide. As we all know now, the credit market’s stupendous decline is no longer just a U.S. domestic issue (for the Israeli perspective, just take a look at how the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has crashed along with the rest of the world).

No doubt, the candidates will have a lot on their plates this fall. But to read the news in Israel, you’d think that there was only one issue of importance on the agenda: Who will be better for this country? Israelis are not totally off base here. Obama and McCain, not to mention vice presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden have jumped through hoops to address all the major Zionist talking points, with each trying to one-up each other in terms of their support for the Jewish nation.

Israelis on the right wing side of politics (which includes a large percentage of Anglo immigrants here) tend to be pro-McCain, citing his experience and a more hard line approach to terrorism. They decry Obama’s naïveté and his repeatedly stated eagerness to meet with Iran and other totalitarian enemies, in contrast to McCain’s policy of continuing the Bush doctrine of isolation.

Yes, Obama would probably have a tete-a-tete with Iranian president Ahmadinejad, but my guess is that it would go nowhere and Obama’s foreign policy will quickly look much like McCain’s. And another 9/11 event – God forbid – would see either candidate responding in a similar fashion.

On the Israel-Arab peace process, Obama would be hard pressed to demand radical concessions from the country (the pro-Israel Congress wouldn’t let him). And the assumption that liberal Democrats are tougher on Israel than Republicans is not necessarily grounded in reality. Let’s not forget that Bill Clinton was a great friend of this country while the Annapolis process, initiated by George Bush, has bore little fruit and even catalyzed outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert into making far-reaching – and in my view irresponsible – statements essentially giving away the store that will brand any future prime minster (whether Livni or Netanyahu) as backtracking on a publicly stated “agreement.”

Ultimately, though, my take is that there’s just not that much difference between the candidates when it comes to foreign affairs. A little window dressing here, a rallying cry there. What’s really important is domestic U.S. politics. And that’s where I think Obama trumps McCain.

I truly believe that Obama’s mantra of change will make a difference. Even if it’s just psychological, the U.S. – and the world – needs that message to begin the process of healing. And in terms of other domestic U.S. issues – from a woman’s right to choose and funding for sex education and birth control, to environmental policies and the teaching of intelligent design in schools – I favor Obama’s stance.

And then there’s Sarah Palin. I’m sorry but what was John McCain thinking when he nominated a small town mayor with a scant two years as the governor of a state with the third smallest population in the U.S.?

Palin effectively destroys the Republican claim that their team has a lock on experience. Palin says that she can be effective in foreign policy because Alaska shares borders with two countries. Has Canada ever gone to war with the United States? Have there been any military conflagrations between Russia and Alaska since Palin was elected? Give me a break.

When it comes to her own education, Palin’s personal record is pitiful. Four semesters in community college, while bouncing back and forth between colleges in Idaho, Hawaii and Alaska – compare that to Obama’s Ivy League pedigree and subsequent legal practice. I’m not saying that being a lawyer is necessarily an asset, but it at least means that you’re reasonably smart and have completed a rigorous program of graduate studies.

I could go on and on – from the beauty pageant winner to gun toting hockey mom to her support for the “Bridge to Nowhere” – is this really who you want a stone’s throw away from the presidency when the Republican nominee is 72 years old and not in the best health? Obama’s pick for vice president, Joe Biden, by contrast, rounds out the relative inexperience in Obama’s record, is one of Israel’s staunchest supporters, and has 36 years of distinguished service in the Senate.

This year’s U.S. presidential election stands to be one of the most critical in years. However, if all the heaviness of the decision making process is making you feel a tad morose, lighten up. Check out the Sarah Silverman (pro-Obama) and Jackie Mason (pro-McCain) videos that are circulating around the web. Whoever’s got the funnier clip, vote for that candidate.

Now, that’s wasn’t so hard, was it?


What do you think? I welcome your comments – just click the Leave Comment button at the bottom of this post.

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