Redlines

09.24.12

Blue And White Noise

When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there.

This statement, uttered by President Obama on "60 Minutes" last night, seems uncontroversial: An American president vows to do what's right for the people he leads. But there's no "simple" when the "noise" comes from the Israeli government and its right-wing Stateside defenders. The Washington Post's combative right-winger Jennifer Rubin called it "another in a long string of insults, snubs and gaffes about Israel." House Majority Leader Eric Cantor attacked Obama in a Romney camp press release.

Never you mind that Obama followed up his "noise" comment by adding:

Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we're in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply. They're one of our closest allies in the region. And we've got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel's existence.

So harping on Obama's comment that he was ignoring the "noise" takes his comments out of context. How unsurprising. Moreover, while Israel is an American ally—which the Obama administration, it should be noted, has lavished with cash, weapons and diplomatic cover throughout its tenure—there should be no controversy in Obama saying he will "simply to do what's right for the American people" or that everything else is of secondary concern.

The Obama administration, while having committed itself to preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, clearly views an attack on Iran now as bad for U.S. interests (many top former and current Israeli security officials agree). What Benjamin Netanyahu has been asking Obama to do—in a high-profile public campaign—is lower the threshold for war by shifting that "red line" to a nuclear "capability," an ill-defined term that nonetheless clearly falls short of the current weapons production red line. That's why the Obama administration rebuffed Netanyahu's noisy ask.

Is this how low our discourse has sunk, that a sitting President can be attacked for justifying his policies based on American interests?