We break no new ground by noting that many politicians are shameless hypocrites, but especially notable examples deserve special attention. Read this cogent, impassioned and quite eloquent plea against raising the US debt ceiling:
“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. …Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here’. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”
How true a statement, and how irresponsible a government to willfully and wantonly saddle future generations with this generation’s excesses! The “free stuff” that is handed out in abundance – the astounding increase in food stamps and welfare recipients, the explosion of new disability claims utterly disproportionate to prior eras, the subsidies for housing, cell phones, education and dozens of other government programs – none of it paid for – would make the above statement a clarion call for sobriety and maturity, except for one detail: the above was uttered by Senator Barack Obama in 2006 when he opposed an increase in the debt ceiling to a modest nine trillion dollars, and voted against it. (Now, the debt is approaching seventeen trillion dollars, and will shortly have doubled on Obama’s watch.)
Can Obama’s 2006 statement be reconciled with his 2013 grandstanding, asserting that the Republicans are endangering the US economy by holding firm against a debt limit increase without first imposing spending cuts as a first step to reducing the debt? Of course not. Obama’s minions have alternatively declared that his 2006 position was a mistake, done simply to oppose a Republican president, or just “politics.” All are bad rationalizations that point to a depressing lack of seriousness in the man and his policies.
It emerges that in President Obama’s mind, raising the debt limit in 2006 was irresponsible and not raising the debt limit in 2013 is also irresponsible. That is to say, Obama can hold two contradictory positions, and each time he will be correct in their espousal simply because he is the one espousing them. That is sophistry worthy of tin pot dictators, not an American president. Surely, he can do better than that.
Of course, the implied assumption is that since he was insincere in his objections in 2006 – it was all “politics” – therefore today’s Republicans must also be insincere in their objections. In so doing, and in what has become fairly typical, Obama here strips his opposition of any moral substance or any semblance of integrity, making a principled opposition to fiscal insanity sound like wanton wickedness and just meant as a personal affront to him.
That is not to say that the Republican legislators come with clean hands; the Republicans have been quite adept at running up the debt and increasing spending when it suits them. But when will it all end, and what will cause it to end? By the end of Obama’s second term, the debt will exceed $20,000,000,000,000 (a lot of zeroes, and in essence almost eight years of revenue buried in one gigantic and unfillable hole). That is irresponsible – something every adult can recognize – but something to which Obama seems blithely indifferent. As he is babied by the mainstream press, don’t expect him ever to have to explain himself in any detail. The troubled future lurking – credit rating downgrades, inflation, a devalued dollar, and a shift away from the dollar being the world’s reserve currency – will unfold on someone else’s watch. He will get credit – if that is the word – for opening the government vaults and showering taxpayer earnings and borrowed money on his favored constituents. When the piper has to be paid, he’ll be far gone – and probably criticizing the failures of Congress and his successors for not reining in spending. And that is shameless.
Even that might pale before the astonishing collapse of Senator Chuck Schumer, self-proclaimed defender of Israel, women, abortion, homosexuals, etc., who suddenly withdrew any concerns he had about Chuck Hagel’s nomination of Secretary of Defense. Hagel, in his career, has been anything but reticent about his views – on the sinister Jewish lobby exercising undue control over US foreign policy, on his “courageous” contention that he (was) a US Senator, not a “Senator from Israel,” on a clear pro-Arab bias, and on a host of pejorative statements made about the other issues and groups – any one of which would have been anathema and the cause for much pained mugging for the camera by a Schumer who would have led the opposition to a Hagel had the latter been nominated by a Republican president.
Do values and principles matter at all? Schumer certainly knows that Hagel’s foreign policy positions are hostile to Israel, and so isolationist that the free world will be less safe and more volatile while Hagel serves at the Pentagon. Iran is rejoicing at the prospect of a Hagel tenure, as are Islamic radicals everywhere. And why shouldn’t they? And Schumer must surely know that Israel would have to be insane to share any of its military intentions with a Pentagon headed by Chuck Hagel, who was reluctant to classify Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hamas or Hezbollah as terrorists. To Hagel, instability in the Middle East begins and ends with Israel.
So, where is Schumer? Where are the other liberal Jewish supporters of Obama? It is hard to imagine a Secretary of Defense who would be worse from Israel’s perspective, not to mention America’s. Hagel’s admirable service as an enlisted soldier in Vietnam hardly qualifies him to run the Pentagon. Apparently, Schumer’s one “conversation” with Hagel was enough to allay any fears or concerns about a lifetime of antagonistic rhetoric and deeds, consideration that Schumer has never given to Republican President’s nominees. What did Hagel say to him in provate? “Never mind… it was just politics”?! Schumer has never been known for such deference to others, i.e., Republicans. Would Schumer show the same obsequiousness to Egypt’s President Morsi, who yesterday said his 2010 characterization of Jews “as descendants of apes and pigs” was “taken out of context?” (Indeed, what could have been the context from which that statement was… wrenched?)
It is not the first time that Schumer has toed the party line rather than stand up for principles that he usually articulates quite stridently, and occasionally even usefully. I remember vividly when Schumer shilled for Jimmy Carter, traversing Jewish neighborhoods to tout that Jew-hater’s love and support for Israel over Ronald Reagan. Was it worth it to Schumer to sell his soul to chair the inauguration dinner, to stand in front of the cameras one more time, and to keep alive his chances of being Majority Leader? Wasn’t this the occasion to use whatever influence he – or his fellow liberal Jews – think they have with Obama to try to discourage him from such an ignominious choice to lead the Pentagon? Apparently not.
Hagel will assuredly be approved by the Senate; presidents are usually afforded deference and especially when they nominate former Senators. I can’t recall a Senator being rejected by his colleagues since John Tower was denied appointment as Pentagon chief in 1989 because of alleged alcohol and women’s issues. And how did Schumer vote on that nomination? He gets a pass; he didn’t join the Senate for another decade, but he assuredly would have opposed John Tower. Hagel will engender some opposition, and we can be almost certain that when he turns on Israel, the Jewish left will blame neither Hagel, nor themselves for their shortsightedness, but rather Israel for its intransigence.
Nothing is new under the sun, and politics and hypocrisy are conventional bedfellows. Hypocrisy is found in every walk of life, bar none. But in Hagel’s dissembling, he is joined both by the man who nominated him and the man who, ignoring the nominee’s entire career, has rushed to whitewash him and stamp him kosher.
Purchase or Learn More about My Books
- The Majesty and Meaning of the Rainbow [audio]
- Great Rabbis of the 20th Century, Part 10: Rav Yitzchak Hutner [audio]
- Pre-Selichot Divrei Hit'orrerut [audio]
- Is there a "split" between American Jewry and Israel? [audio]
- Great Rabbis of the 20th Century, Part 9: Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach [audio]
- Parshat Sh'lach - Vision [audio]
- Ask The Rabbi - Questions about Torah, Judaism and Life [audio]
- Great Rabbis of the 20th Century, Part 8: Rav Aharon Kotler [audio]
- Six Additional Knocks [audio]
- Mutual Respect in an Age of Intolerance [audio]