Despite what you may have heard around the internet, I’m no fan of anti-Semitism, and I am (to top it off) an actual-factual Zionist—and I am furthermore a big ol’ feminist, so I’m also no fan of power structures that shut out women.
One might think, then, that I would like the idea of a Defense Secretary Michele Flournoy, particularly when her biggest competition appears to be in the form of former Senator Chuck Hagel, a man who has just been declared an anti-Semite by folks (like Bret Stephens and Jennifer Rubin) who like to declare such things. A not-anti-Semitic lady! What could be finer?
Well, prepare for a shock: I actually like Hagel.
Aside from anything else, I don’t buy the right’s anti-Semitism argument (so neatly eviscerated by my boss Peter Beinart earlier today), or its sudden-onset feminism. Indeed, I have very little time for either.
As I’ve said before, the false equivalency between opposition to right-wing Israel’s political agenda and anti-Semitism is a-historical, intellectually insulting, and frankly offensive. If American conservatives don’t know what 21st century anti-Semitism looks like, they could always check in with Hungary’s Jewish community. But hey—at least this is an argument I’ve met before.
But Conservative demands for more women in Obama’s next Cabinet? Am I the only one gobsmacked by the unmitigated gall?
I don’t know if you recall, but waaaaay back last week, there was every reason to believe that President Obama was considering a woman for a high-level Cabinet position—but Susan Rice wasn’t, apparently, the right woman. So she was hounded out of the running, with neocon darling John McCain at the head of the pack.
Moreover, the party for which American conservatives cast their votes is the same party which until very recently was trying to win control of the country so that it could do things like limit abortion rights, redefine rape, and repeal a health care law set to roll back an enormous amount of gender-based health care discrimination. So you will excuse me if I don’t take the call to grrl power all that seriously.
No, this sudden interest in Flournoy, Obama’s own former under-secretary is (if I may borrow a term) Lady-Washing, at its most crude.
Neocons don’t like Hagel on Iran. Full stop. (Well, they don’t like him on a lot of things, but they really don’t like him on Iran). And neocons want us to believe that being pro-Israel (and, ipso facto, not-anti-Semitic) is identical with supporting a strike against Iran.
But here’s the thing: It’s just possible to love Israel and the United States and believe that starting a war with Iran would actually be bad for both. It’s just possible to believe that the people who sold us the Iraq War shouldn’t be trusted on Iran. And it’s just possible to be a feminist who thinks a man happens to be best choice for a particular job (optics aside).
One caveat: I don’t actually know that Michele Flournoy would be a bad choice for Defense. I know that I don’t agree with her idea that the U.S. military is in danger of becoming overly cautious as a result of a new “Vietnam syndrome,” and as regards her assertion that “we have to be willing to fail,” well, I’d say our military establishment has done enough failing in the last decade—but as Abe Foxman himself has noted, “the Secretary of Defense is not an independent contractor.”
But I do know that I agree with Hagel’s instinct toward diplomacy, and I have long admired his willingness to speak frankly about Israel and the difference between being pro-Israel and being in thrall to a particular set of Israeli policy positions. Regardless of what Bret Stephens might think, there is actual courage involved in taking that position in American politics—as anyone who paid any attention to the last Presidential campaign can attest.
So please, conservative Americans, miss me with your appeals to my feminism, or to my Zionism, when you try to criticize this President. The bloom is off the rose for fact-free smear campaigns (as anyone who paid any attention to the election’s results can attest). You’re embarrassing yourselves.