Thursday, August 26, 2010

Springtime for Hillary: Obama’s Carter moment

by Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 8/26/10

The Clinton State Department will bring all the solemnity and decorum to the daunting task of peace in the Middle East that the Clintons brought to the White House when their young staffers pulled the “W”s off all the keyboards. The New York Times reports that a State staffer who Hillary enthusiastic supports “ . . . just had the greatest frappuccino ever” north of Damascus but techPresident blog reports he keeps “ . . . having the bad luck of getting the carrot/orange juice instead of the mango juice.” Good to know they still have that undergraduate vigor. Same staffers maybe. But it is profoundly disturbing to think that those who for more than 2,000 years have traversed pharaohs and Romans and pressed through the night and fog of Hitler and Stalin simply to pray again at Temple Mount will be sitting at the same table. The upcoming peace talks will be Hillary’s big moment. Max, she is ready for her close up. But this could be the nexus of President Obama’s problems.

Obama seems a very different person than Bill and Co. He appealed to the rational and to the adult in us at first and we come to trust in the reliability of that to make progress. But he modeled his tenure on Bill’s global overture, feeling he would have a better shot in a world with a Starbuck’s on every block, even in terrorist states. This is Bono’s world and Elvis Costello’s. Harvard, now disinvested in Israel , the Clintons and their youthful State Department and all of those pitiful little countries on the edge of Europe dutifully live in it. The Clintons are products of their own time and generation (or anti-generation). Obama is a more serious person and it seemed at first that he was more instinctive than they were. But maybe that is why liberals are turning against him now. Until this week I’ve always thought that Obama could turn this around. Not now.

Israeli/”Arab” peace agreements, like the presidential library and that Stanley Cup for forgotten ex-Presidents, the Nobel Peace Prize, are second term considerations. Possibly Obama sees the writing on the wall. He should, because this week we are feeling déjà vu all over again.

History turns on a moment and one of those moments occurred in October, 1979, when President Jimmy Carter reluctantly allowed the Shah of Iran to enter the United States for surgery. Overnight, the country was divided over whether the Shah should be sent back to Iran where the Ayatollah Khomeini had taken control. Soon American hostages were taken. The Carter Presidency was taken hostage as well.

That moment changed everything. It strangely resembles this moment. The controversy over the mosque at Ground Zero has awakened the same primal divisions in Americans, still aching from 9/11. Carter, who tried to do the right thing, was helpless. His presidency was virtually over at that moment. Obama’s bungled comments on the mosque may have brought him his own Carter moment. And if it was the beginning of the end for Carter, it was the beginning of the beginning for Ronald Reagan. Out of this a new champion could rise as well; possibly this fall, beginning maybe as early as this weekend.

And peace in the Middle East will wait for it. It will wait for a new political era and a new generation in America and in Israel. Not long ahead, maybe sooner than later.

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