BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
I am thinking about Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative former advisor to both the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, and a great line from a song by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks has popped into my head: "How can I miss you if you won't go away?" In a strange way, it is almost comforting to read Abrams' recent accusations in The Weekly Standard that President Barack Obama, with his advocacy for the Iran nuclear deal, is "feeding a deep line of anti-Semitism." In critiquing the president's speeches on the issue, Abrams wrote: "The president ... must know that he is here feeding a deep line of anti-Semitism that accuses American Jews of getting America into wars."
One expects nothing less from Abrams, who, over the years has worked assiduously to torpedo diplomatic efforts on several continents.
With this accusation of anti-Semitism, Abrams has joins a gaggle of Iran deal-snuffers who are throwing off their rhetorical shackles: Writing for the Jewish magazine Tablet, Lee Smith, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, claimed Obama is "hinting broadly at anti-Semitic conceits — like dual loyalties, moneyed interests, Jewish lobby" and calling his opponents "dual loyalists who are willing to send Americans out to make war on behalf of Jewish causes"; in a not so subtle reference to the Holocaust, Mike Huckabee, Republican Party presidential hopeful, maintained that the president's deal would "take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven"; Eli Lake, a Bloomberg View columnist, recently wrote that Obama's "dog whistling" supporters who harbor fears of "the power of a bunch of disloyal bureaucrats eager to shed American blood for Israel"; Wall Street Journal editorial-page columnist Bret Stephens has charged Obama with exploiting anti-Semitism.
Over the years, there have been are many examples of Abrams' pooh-poohing diplomatic efforts, preferring a more muscular approach to foreign affairs. As Inter Press Service's Jim Lobe reported in 2007, in 1987, "despite intensified regional peace-making efforts for which Costa Rican President Oscar Arias won that year's Nobel Peace Prize, the Ronald Reagan administration" pressed on with "its efforts to isolate and overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua."
While then-House Speaker Jim Wright quietly engaged with "Reagan's White House chief of staff, Howard Baker, Secretary of State George Shultz and his special Central America envoy, Philip Habib, sought to promote Arias' plan," it was Abrams "then assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs, [who] worked ... with fellow hard-liners in the White House and the Pentagon ... to torpedo both the Arias plan and Wright's efforts to advance it throughout the latter half of 1987."
Abrams, a leading neo-conservative who served as George W. Bush's main Middle East adviser, has been pulling out all the stops to help kill the nuclear deal with Iran. In October of last year, in a piece in Foreign Affairs titled "Bibi the Bad Cop -- Can Israel Prevent a Deal With Iran?", Abrams lamented the fact that Israel's options were being limited by negotiations: "Israel does retain one option for stymying the negotiations if they appear to be heading for what Israelis would view as a bad deal, one that would allow Iran to escape sanctions and creep closer to a bomb. That is for Israel to attack Iranian nuclear sites. Its ability to do so is already being narrowed considerably by the diplomatic thaw, because it is one thing to bomb Iran when it appears hopelessly recalcitrant and isolated and quite another to bomb it when much of the world -- especially the United States -- is optimistic about the prospect of talks."
These days, as the time for Congress to vote on the deal grows shorter, Abrams is doing what he does best: throw around charges of anti-Semitism. In his Weekly Standard piece dated August 8, and headlined "Obama and the 'Amen Corner,'" Abrams leads with: "This week President Obama sealed his legacy as the most divisive president in modern times, who will leave behind both worsened race relations and a set of arguments about Iran that will surely feed anti-Semitism."
To get to just how divisive the president has been, Abrams' first paragraph blames Obama for the woeful state of race relations in the country. "A third of the American people, over a hundred million Americans, hold the president responsible for worsening race relations in the country." One of the reasons for this is Obama's "close relationship with people who make a living from bitter race relations, such as Al Sharpton."
Now to the crux of Abrams' argument: Obama is adding another item to this legacy of deeper divisions among Americans," by criticizing those who are opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran, in its "scrambling to defend" it. "The basic idea [Obama is putting forth] is simple: to oppose the president's Iran deal means you want war with Iran, you're an Israeli agent, you are in the pay of Jewish donors, and you are abandoning the best interests of the United States."
Abrams concludes: "And now Barack Obama joins the chorus—or shall we call it his own 'amen corner.' His American University speech was an eloquent denunciation of those who disagree with him as warmongers with dual loyalty, who will be 'demanding' war with Iran. This speech divides Americans not according to principled opinions, nor even by party, but mostly by religion. It shows disrespect for critics and lowers the tone of the important debate over Iran, but that is not its worst attribute. Once again, it shows Mr. Obama as the divider—willing to use arguments that may or may not help him win this summer's argument but will surely leave an ugly mark on American politics."
In a New York magazine piece, Jonathan Chait asked: "[W]here is the evidence that Obama himself has engaged in this kind of rhetoric? His critics rely heavily on the power of translation. The various J'accuse! columns are filled with inflammatory terms — 'disloyal,' 'Jewish lobby' — that the authors use to describe Obama, but that Obama did not actually use. The headline for Abrams's column in The Weekly Standard — "Obama and the 'Amen Corner'" — features a phrase uttered not by Obama but by Pat Buchanan more than two decades ago. In the absence of direct evidence, or even indirect evidence, the critics instead read deeply into straightforward claims Obama has made."
What appears to be sticking in Abrams' craw are Obama's statements that the same people that brought us the war with Iraq are front and center in criticizing the nuclear deal with Iran. True that!