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The most significant event that happened today may not be Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, but the response from Democrats — or non-response. Watching how many now join with Republicans to ask the Obama Administration to rethink its negotiations with Iran will tell us a lot about the party’s state of mind — not just about Israel, but about America in the world today.
The signs aren’t hopeful. The last count before the speech was that some 55 Democratic members of Congress had decided to boycott the event. Some were the usual progressive suspects, like Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken. Some who had announced they would boycott the speech decided at the last minute they wouldn’t, like New York’s Charlie Rangel and Florida’s Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Her non-attendance would have presented the truly bizarre spectacle of a Jewish Democrat speaking at AIPAC one day, then skipping, in protest, a speech by Israel’s prime minister the next.
Those Democrats who did boycott clearly chose loyalty to this administration and its outlook over the traditions of US foreign policy founded by Democrats themselves after World War II — they also chose that loyalty over moral sense.
The subtext of Bibi’s speech wasn’t just the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran to Israel, and to the region as a whole — a threat the Obama Administration seems increasingly insistent on ignoring (with the offer, for example, to put a 10-year expiration date on Iran’s promise to avoid weapons-grade enrichment). It was also about what moral choices the United States wants to make in its stance towards the world. Are we on the side of dictators and authoritarians, or democracies and free societies? The haters or the hated? Those who lie or those who tell the truth?
Without a doubt, the Obama Administration has made it clear that those distinctions don’t matter. It’s been working relentlessly to cultivate its new autocratic ally in the Middle East, one with a consistently appalling human rights record and long hostility to the United States and its interests. That alliance can only come at the expense of — possibly even the existence of — our traditional democratic ally, Israel, a country that Secretary of State John Kerry has described as an “apartheid state” and presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton denounced for its “brutal occupation” of the West Bank, while keeping a stony silence as Hamas rockets rained down on it.
It’s just the latest example of a foreign policy outlook engrained in the Democrat Party ever since Vietnam: that it’s America’s enemies that we need to reach out to and appease, not friends and allies who’ve been our partners in sustaining the world system for 70 years. And if the price of an uncertain deal with a dictator is the certain betrayal of our own principles, so be it.
As my recent review of diplomat Chris Hill’s memoirs shows, America’s dealings with North Korea on the nuclear issue are the classic example of this mentality (and, in the North Korea case, unfortunately, it was not one limited to Democrats). There was also Syria and Bashar al-Assad (who can forget Hillary Clinton categorizing that pencil-necked brute as a “reformer” or Nancy Pelosi paying him court in her head scarf?) and the Administration’s outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. We even see it with this administration’s serial failure to confront ISIS, choosing instead to get Iran involved in the delusional hope that we can get the mullahs to achieve our objectives in Iraq when we’re only facilitating theirs.
‘Facilitate’ is the key word (Bret Stephens used it in his column today). The Obama Administration and its Democratic Party minions have become this generation’s facilitators of evil, as Western politicians were in the Thirties.
The late Alan Taylor perfectly summed up the self-destructive outlook of that generation of appeasers who, like Obama with Iran, still hoped for a deal with Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini even as German tanks were pouring into Poland.
By “pretending to treat the Fascist dictators as gentlemen,” Taylor wrote, “they ceased to be gentlemen themselves.”
Having once committed themselves to the non-existent good faith of the dictators, [they] grew indignant in their turn when others continued to doubt [that good faith]….The statesmen of Western Europe moved in a moral and intellectual fog—sometimes deceived by the dictators, sometimes deceiving themselves, often deceiving their own public. [In the end] they came to believe that an unscrupulous diplomacy was the only resource.
That fog has now descended on Obama and the Democratic Party, including my own senator, Tim Kaine. I’d like to think Bibi’s powerful speech will help to cut through that fog. But I doubt it.