An argument for progressives

I admit that I’m politically schizophrenic, mixing right-and left-wing positions on different subjects. Those of my friends (those that remain) who have consistent ideologies invariably come to regard me as a extremist in favor of whatever they are against.

Anyway, the other day I was listening to a woman of the progressive persuasion talk about the really distressing phenomenon of Obama-hatred on the Right. The President’s statements and his motives are misrepresented, attacks on him are personal and possibly racist, he is portrayed in vile caricatures, he is simply hated — far beyond any criticism of policy. And she added that she was honestly afraid for his safety as a result.

Now I think his administration’s Mideast policy — worse, his entire view about the proper place of the US in the world and the intentions of its adversaries — is entirely wrong and off-balance. It’s both immoral and disadvantageous for the US and for the human race. But I absolutely agree with this woman that his political enemies have gone way too far in the direction of misrepresentation and personal vilification. And yes, it’s worse than it was with Clinton and even worse than the Left’s treatment of Bush.

So I asked her if she saw any parallel between the way the Right relates to Obama and the way she and other ‘progressives’ think about the state of Israel.

Did she see any similarity between the made-up stories about Obama’s birth and religion and the absurd blood libels against Israel spreading rapidly around the world?

Is she aware that motives attributed to Obama and Israel by opponents are always the worst possible, no matter how irrational? So Obama is said to want to wreck the economy in order to ultimately destroy capitalism and replace it with some form of socialism — and Israel is accused of acting to ‘punish’ Palestinians in order to humiliate them and destroy their culture.

Did she notice the caricatures and cartoons vilifying Israel?

Did she worry that the constant din of Israel’s enemies like Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, Meshaal, and countless others calling for and predicting Israel’s destruction might stimulate terrorists to act?

Does she see that the goal of the assault is the same — to soften up the target so it can be destroyed?

Does she notice that she herself — someone who tries very hard to live ethically and fight against every form of oppression and unfairness — sometimes repeats false accusations against Israel that she heard on KPFA, the left-wing version of conservative ‘hate radio’?

It seems to me that anti-Israel lies and distortions are in many ways worse than those told about the President. For one thing, what are the rantings of a Glenn Beck compared with the official pronouncements of the Goldstone Commission of the ‘United Nations’ — although the credibility of the latter should be no more than that of the former?

And as far as I know, nobody has yet accused the President of stealing organs.

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6 Responses to “An argument for progressives”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is the kind of original and thought- provoking analysis that regularly presents. Who would have thought to link the vicious and often moronic attacks on President Obama with the vicious and absurd attacks made on Israel by the Islamist – Extreme Left Alliance?
    Just as the attacks on Obama aim to eliminate him as effective President so too the attacks on Israel aim to delegitimize it and destroy it? I too agree with Vic Rosenthal that the attacks on Israel are a far more serious matter. They are engaged by a far wider range of people on the political spectrum. They have far more myth- mongering and falsehood involved. And they are far more global in scope.

  2. Robman says:

    I really do not agree that such a large portion of anti-Obama sentiment is rooted in racism. Undoubtedly, some is, but this really is a rather small portion.

    I don’t have any polls to back me up, but neither do you, Vic. I can only tell you this based on my judgement and experience of 48 years, plus the fact that I live smack dab in the middle of, well, “middle America”. I reside in a predominantly white small town in a major midwestern state, near a medium-sized city. Our voting precinct – overwhelmingly white and middle class – voted solidly for Obama. Moreover, I work in a steel mill; the concerns and attitudes of average working Americans is not something I read about in an article, or get from a staffer, or glean from a campaign stop. This is what I live and breathe every day.

    No, I disagree in the strongest terms that ire against Obama is primarily of a racist nature. Instead, I believe it is fed by a sense of betrayal. Never in my own politically conscious life have I ever seen a president show himself to be so far removed from what he represented himself as on the campaign trail, before the fact.

    Having gone to school with guys like Obama by the truckload, I easily pegged him as a liar with a singular lack of what commonly is referred to as “character”. He has turned out to be largely what I expected; but most voters do not have the insight I would have by having attended schools of comparable prestige during comparable time frames as was the case for Obama, of having even met – face to face – the likes of Rashid Khalidi, who was a guest professor for one of my classes at U Chicago. This is a guy who has dedicated the whole of his professional life to the demonization and destruction of Israel, and when it came to light that he and Obama were good friends, that he had raised $70,000 for Obama’s senate campaign, it was crystal clear to me what we were dealing with.

    But most voters, mad at Bush, scared silly by the market crash, wanted badly to believe that Obama was who he said he was in the months leading up to the election: “fiscally responsible”, “bipartisan”, “a moderate”, “a friend of Israel”…and if anyone objected based on his infinite list of friends and cronies who were anything but these things, that was – oh my! – “guilt by association”! What transparent, shallow, sophistry! I am still reeling in amazement that people bought that line, that people treated that as a legitimate defense!

    So, now we see that he is pretty much everything the likes of Shawn Hannity said he was, and no one likes to be made fools of. THAT, my friend, is what has got people so mad at him. I don’t know that people would have objected so strongly to his health care plan, except that now, even if they don’t know beans about what is actually in the plan, they simply do not trust him. There is an old saying: “A liar will not be believed even when he tells the truth.”. This particular chicken has come home to roost in Obama’s case. IT HAS LITTLE OR NOTHING TO DO WITH RACISM. C’MON!!!!!!

    You draw a false parallel in this case, Vic. Rather, what is most significant to me in what you discuss above is the fact of, on the one hand, the progressive left’s outrageous treatment of Isreal – which you describe quite accurately, of course – and on the other, this same delusional left’s undying enthusiasm for Obama, a great deal of which is based on their expectation that he will screw over Israel as they believe Israel deserves. It would take some pretty extreme, wacked out people to support such a charlatan, such a liar, someone who for these reasons can fully be expected to do an incredibly bad job as president overall, to believe that he will be good for the country..and even after all the damage is done, I’m sure many of them will say in his defense that..”at least he stood up to those Zionists!”.

    No, the question I ask of progessive lefties with respect to Israel is to examine just what the heck they stand for as “progressives”. What does this really mean, to be a “progressive”? Weren’t “progressives” in the vanguard for labor rights, women’s rights, human rights, religious tolerance, voting rights, minority rights, etc., etc.? And who in the Middle East reflects these values in their societies? The Arabs? They – the progressives – would be positively creamed in such cultures, but they could live quite easily in Israel.

    That is the message we need to confront the progressive left with, not enabling such fantasies of theirs as a “racist conspiracy” against Obama.

  3. Vic Rosenthal says:


    You seem to think that it’s my position that attacks on Obama are primarily racist. Rather, I was paraphrasing the ‘progressive’ person that I was talking to. I said,

    Anyway, the other day I was listening to a woman of the progressive persuasion talk about the really distressing phenomenon of Obama-hatred on the Right. The President’s statements and his motives are misrepresented, attacks on him are personal and possibly racist, he is portrayed in vile caricatures, he is simply hated — far beyond any criticism of policy. And she added that she was honestly afraid for his safety as a result.

    Read it again…. It’s her talking, up to and including “and she added”. OK, I agree that it could have been more clear.

    My own position is that while I disagree with many of his policies, particularly in foreign policy, yes I think his opponents go too far. And it’s possible to go too far without being a racist, which I agree accounts only for a small proportion of his enemies (although if someone shoots him it will probably be a racist).

    It’s just not healthy for a political system to have it degenerate into the kind of abuse that we saw dumped on Clinton, Bush and now — to an even more extreme degree — Obama.

    The point of my post was to say to a ‘progressive’ something like this:

    “Look how pissed you are at what the Right is doing to Obama; don’t you see that you are doing the same thing to Israel?”

  4. Robman says:


    In that last statement, you would be a lot clearer – per what you say at the outset above – if it read: “Look how pissed you are at what YOU PERCEIVE the Right is doing to Obama.”

    They are not comparable cases. My point is that Obama really deserves a lot of the abuse he is getting. I fought tooth and nail against him, I know his sort well, I had umpteen housemates, classmates, etc., cut from the same cloth, and he is fulfilling most of my worst expectations. I fully expect him to go down as the worst president since WW2. That is saying a lot.

    Mind you, with respect to my own politics, I spent a lot of my life suffering from “political schizophrenia” as well. I’ve voted in seven elections since 1980 (I missed 1984 due to military training). I voted for four Democrats, two independents, and one Republican, that being John McCain. I never supported Bush, and still have few nice things to say about him, except that even he is better than Obama.

    On the surface, it is as though the two political parties are engaged in a grotesque “can you top this” game as to who can field the worst president. In fact, I put our continuing downward spiral down to the political cultural effects of the Vietnam era. That topic is worth a book, let alone an article, but put very simply, we are still paying the price for that war. It wrecked our modern, positive sense of national community, a sense that was fragile to begin with and which was forged by the twin trials of the Great Depression and WW2. It was the failure of a well-intentioned but ill-informed establishment, coupled with the selfish, morally bankrupt response of the generations that followed.

    As Netanyahu pointed out at the UN, as leaders here like R. James Woolsey attempt to point out to anyone who will listen, we are in a war against barbarism. We have every advantage except one: We don’t know what the hell we are fighting for, and they do. We are mostly about being comfortable, while infinite, guilt-ridden, reflexive self-flagellation has somehow become elevated into a form of noble patriotism.

    OK, who is this “we” who are so clueless about what we stand for as a civilization, however? To a great degree, as this has been translated into policy, this is the establishment class that has arisen from the Vietnam era, on both sides of the aisle. Whether you are talking about chickenhawks like Dan Qyuale (sp? I don’t care), or flag-waving draft dodgers like Cheney, or even Clinton, or that twit Edwards, they are self-serving hypocrites all around. Their legacy, as left by their academic brethren, consist of the likes of Obama (with, in his case, a healthy dollop of “f*** you, whitey” thrown in for good measure, courtesy Rev. Wrong).

    To me, this last election stood as a referendum on post-Vietnam America versus pre-Vietnam America. McCain, imperfect as he was, represented the values of this country as they stood when we were at our apogee of self-confidence as a civilization. Obama represented the glorification of the sewer of moral relatavism, what amounted to a massively rationalized, intellectualized cowardice, that large portions of our so-called “elites” have come to embrace.

    Vic, the problem is not a growing culture of abuse, of “incivility”, as I read your critique. Incivility is a problem, I grant you that, but to me, this is but one element of the fallout that has arisen out of the political cultural frustration and confusion we have been experiencing since the mid-1970s. You have Republicans, on the one side, who are what I call “hypocrites in denial”, who want to pretend Vietnam never happened (and hope you don’t notice what cowards they were at that time), and you have Democrats who try to glorify a great deal of the twisted, destructive nonsense that came out of that era.

    Perhaps Obama will, in a perverse sense, do the country a favor by shocking so many people into some kind of positive, constructive awareness, that our post-Vietnam fever will finally break, and we will find ourselves as a society again in the process.

  5. DALevit says:

    Amazing article! Did the female radio personality give you a culpable answer? Until these Obama days, I considered myself on the hard-right for Israel and center with a left-lean for American politics. This president has not made me any more Conservative, but he has caused me to all but tune out of American political discourse. Progressives are not really Progressive anymore, much like Republicans are not really fiscally conservative anymore, and I won’t mention Democrats – they gave us Obama, after all. The situation seems as chaotic, to me, as the situation Israel finds itself in. The entire world seems skewed these days.
    Right now, Goldstone is all but giving me hives. Obama has kept me p.o.’d since his inauguration. The bright spot, at least for appearance sake, is Netanyahu and his recent speech to the U.N. Did everyone catch the woman that left in a huff when he mentioned the Human Rights Council? Was that Goldstone’s daughter? I sure hope so.
    It’s 3:30 AM and I’m rambling. Sorry. Great article, as always. Very fine. Thank you.

    Stronger in a Strange Land (blog)

  6. Vic Rosenthal says:


    I’m not talking about incivility. My problem is the incitement to violence. Some of the stuff I hear crosses the line. We don’t need another assassination. That’s all. Your comment is very interesting. You should write the long article or book that you mention.


    The woman responded by saying “OK, but why won’t Netanyahu do something about those settlements?” to which I said somewhat aggressively that this was a red herring. Then her daughter and my wife made us talk about something else (it was a social occasion).