Obama ignores economics

The president is a foreign policy addict, even as the finances of the average American family collapse all around him.

Obama hand in air, flag in background 311 (photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Obama hand in air, flag in background 311
(photo credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Recently, on my radio show, Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican whip, argued that President Barack Obama seems largely unmoved by domestic concerns, particularly when it comes to jobs and the economy. The president is a foreign-policy addict, even as the finances of the average American family crumble all around him. The example Cantor cited was telling.
In delivering an Oval Office speech about the end of combat operations in Iraq, the president tacked on an unrelated mini-speech about the need to now focus on unemployment and America’s crumbling finances. So far so good. Yet the very next morning there he was on television conducting a summit with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The president’s inability to sustain a consistent focus on jobs and the economy – which frankly seems to bore him – explains why the Republicans are set to trounce the Democrats in the midterm elections which will make Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, the youngest majority leader since 1947. It also forces us to ask the question of whether the interests of the US are served by this latest American foray into the snarled world of Israeli-Arab relations.
I ARRIVED in Israel on Sunday evening and was suitably impressed, as usual, with its never-ending, rapid progress. Its highways, for instance, now rival anything the US has to offer. Its economy suffered little effects from the global recession, unlike the US which remains mired in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. While Israel is booming, the US is suffering like few times in its history, with a recent CBS News poll showing that a staggering 65 percent of all Americans believe the US is in “serious decline.”
Yet our president, encumbered as he is already with the war in Afghanistan and increasing Iraqi violence, feels the need to add to his burden the gargantuan task of Middle East peace.
But whose interest is served in this effort? Certainly not the US which will gain no brownie points with either the Taliban or al-Qaida even if it were to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Likewise, Israel’s interests seem hardly served by this latest effort, given that any peace treaty with Abbas will not placate its far more serious enemies of Hamas, Hizbullah and their patron Iran. In other words, this peace will not bring peace. And yes, I understand that Netanyahu is probably thinking that if he submits to Obama’s pressure to make concessions to Abbas, the US will do more to preempt a nuclear Iran.
But how realistic is that? Come November, Obama is probably going to be a lameduck president, with both Republican and Democratic pollsters predicting a Democrat thrashing of epic scale. If a strong Obama, whose party controls both the House and the Senate, has made next to no progress on Iran, are we to believe that a miniaturized Obama will suddenly loom large in Iran’s eyes?
TWO WEEKS ago Time magazine ran a cover story on why Israel is not interested in peace. Many Jewish Americans were aghast and accused Time of an anti- Israel bias it has sometimes demonstrated in the past. Now granted the wording of the cover made it sound as if Israel is the obstacle to peace. But the truth of the matter is that I made the same argument in the pages of The Jerusalem Post more than a year ago when Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s excellent book, Start-Up Nation, was published. In essence I argued that Israel needed a new narrative. Not the tragic nation that was engaged in a protracted struggle with Arab enemies whom it was always begging for peace, but rather a nation which is known primarily for its booming economy and one of the most prosperous hi-tech sectors in the world.
South Korea is in a perpetual state of conflict with its northern neighbor and has had, for more than a half century, tens of thousands of American troops stationed on its border to protect it from North Korean aggression. But Obama has not endeavored to end the stalemate and create a lasting peace. Why? Because everyone recognizes Kim Jong Il as a ruthless, nuke-obsessed, Stalinist dictator with whom it is impossible to make any progress. So South Korea moves forward with one of the world’s most robust economies, preferring unity with the North but being realistic about its possibility.
Has anyone tried to broker a peace between Cuba and the US or do we simply accept that so long as Fidel Castro and/or his brother continue a dictatorship, the possibility of peace is slim and American sanctions will continue.
I recognize that Obama would reject these analogies because he believes in linkage, that solving the Israeli-Arab conflict is the key to broader Middle East peace and that Islamic militants use Israeli checkpoints as rallying cries for recruitment.
Really? Netanyahu and Abbas shake hands and the Taliban soldiers slowly return to their homes? Or will they just find another pretext, perhaps something as simple as a clown of a pastor threatening to burn a Koran, or New Yorkers opposed to a mosque at Ground Zero, to recruit all over again?
The writer is the international best-selling author of 23 books. He has just published Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.
Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.