Obama's advisers who concern me

Obama has not even completed his first term in the Senate and his voting record is scant.

Obama great 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Obama great 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
I don't know Larry Derfner ("Islamophobia, Obamaphobia," February 28), but I +chose to leave our native land and raise our families in the Jewish state. We are both political engaged, Larry, on the Left, me, on the Right. We both chose to retain our Anglo-Saxon given names when we immigrated to Israel. In fact, we share the same first name: yes mine is Lawrence, although I have spent a lifetime trying to convince the authorities in the US and Israel to call me by my middle name, Marc.
We both feel very strongly about the outcome of the next round of US elections. In fact, strange as it may seem, we both support the same candidate, Republican Senator John McCain. We both also agree that Senator Obama lacks the experience to be president of the United States. As Derfner says, "I think Obama is too inexperienced in military and foreign affairs to be president now."
Larry and I actually agree on another point regarding Obama: he is no Muslim anti-Semite. Yet for some strange reason, Larry read my article on jpost.com ("Obama and the Jews") to say just the opposite. Let me state clearly and unequivocally for the record, that Barack Obama is not a Muslim and is not an anti-Semite.
I DID say - and I stand by it - that he counts among his most significant influences his professed anti-Israel preacher, Jeremiah Wright, who openly and defiantly embraces another professed anti-Semite and Muslim, Louis Farrakhan (Obama himself agrees that Farrakhan fits the definition!). Like it or not these associations are more than relevant in a campaign for the highest office in the most powerful nation on the planet. This is especially so, when we know so little about the candidate's real policy positions.
Given that Obama's meteoric rise may actually propel him into his party's nomination come August, it is proper for there to be a brisk and comprehensive public debate not only about his lack of experience, but about his policies and opinions.
In the usual case one can learn something about a candidate's views from his voting record and the legislation he has sponsored. This is certainly true of the likely Republican nominee, John Sidney (no he's not Jewish) McCain III. But Obama has not even completed his first term in the Senate and his voting record is scant. Yes, one can learn something of a candidate's positions from his public statements, but these can be misleading, especially when they are made in response to public criticism of his views, associations and previous remarks made before he was a serious candidate. When it comes to Israel, due to traditionally wide bipartisan support, one can be fairly certain that every serious candidate will publicly voice his or her support for the Jewish state and its security. But, forgive me for my cynicism, talk is cheap.
When you are trying to determine what are a candidate's policies on a certain subject in the absence of a clear voting record or history of public activism on that topic, it is appropriate, even necessary, to look at the people with whom the candidate has chosen to consult in framing his policies. As it has been pointed out previously, Obama has not a few advisers who embrace a view of the Arab-Israeli conflict that is decidedly pro-Palestinian. This does not make them either anti-Semites or anti-Zionists, but it does indicate a direction in their thinking that should concern people who care about Israel's survival in an increasingly perilous Middle East.
In our attempt to triangulate Obama's possible stance on policy issues that are of concern to many Jews and friends of Israel (indeed to anyone who is serious about foreign policy), it is entirely appropriate to place the candidate in an associational context. Some years ago a prominent jurist was debarred from assuming a seat on the United States Supreme Court merely because he belonged to a country club that did not admit blacks or Jews. Then it was the Democratic-controlled Senate which sunk the nomination. Guilt by association is, apparently, a valid criterion for ascertaining a candidate's fitness for office in American politics.
Lest Larry accuse me of applying a double standard, we used a similar approach in 2000 when we tried to predict what George W. Bush's policies would be toward Israel and the Middle East. Then the conventional wisdom among Jewish leaders and most Israelis was that George W. Bush would follow the same path as his father. While we took the family association into account, we also looked at George W. Bush's circle of foreign policy advisers and we concluded that the new Bush administration's foreign policy would likely be good news for the region in general and Israel in particular to the amazement of scoffing local pundits. Today, the vast majority of Americans living in Israel vote Republican for this very reason.
Larry Derfner and I share one other thing in common: we are both targets as Americans and Jews of Islamic fundamentalist forces that are carrying out a campaign of global as well as local jihad. We believe Senator Obama is just not equipped to deal with this scourge.
To his credit Obama has gotten many folks excited with his call for change. But when it comes to formulating and conducting foreign policy in a dangerously volatile, terror-threatened world, electing a freshman senator with but a fleeting familiarity with international and security affairs is simply not an option.
The writer is an international attorney practicing in Israel and the US and co-Chairman of Republicans Abroad Israel.