President Bush delivered a speech before the Republic Jewish Coalition (RJC) today. Feh, they deserve each other. I’ve never been a fan of the RJC, especially after they ran a Swift Boat Veterans for Truth-style smear campaign against Howard Dean when he became chair of the Democratic National Committee.
The RJC ad campaign featured a photo of Hamas suicide bombers topped by a September 2003 quote from Dean, “It’s not our place to take sides.” But, as the Forward reported, the RJC took some liberties with that quote:
In fact, [Dean's] “don’t take sides” statement — seen in its now-forgotten context —was a reasonable response to a specific question about whether and how to encourage Israeli-Palestinian dialogue at a time of resurgent terrorism. Two weeks earlier, a devastating Hamas bus bombing in Jerusalem had claimed 22 lives and shattered a summer-long cease-fire. Israelis were furiously debating whether to continue relations with the fledgling Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. By mid-September the government of Ariel Sharon had decided to cut off dialogue. Abbas quit in disgust soon after.
Within weeks a host of top Israelis began stepping forward to demand, in terms far more sweeping than Dean’s, that Israel reach out to the Palestinian side…All this while the American political system was frantically working to stamp out any hint of original Middle East thinking in this country.
The new GOP ads recall nothing so much as the placards depicting Yitzhak Rabin in an Arab headdress, which were brandished by the Israeli right in the months before Rabin was assassinated.With tempers in Israeli and American Jewish circles approaching the boiling point in advance of the planned Gaza withdrawal, that sort of inflammatory imagery should be off limits. The Republican coalition should withdraw the ad and apologize.
So, yeah, they’re classy guys. But, back to Bush’s speech. Always fun to read these, since they’re frequently trial balloons for new rhetorical flourishes and political buzzwords. For instance, we heard for the first time Bush’s new seven-word motto for Iraqification: “As Iraqis stand up, we stand down.”
Also, for those wondering how Bush plans to change the subject from the Katrina debacle back to the war on terror, behold this deft rhetorical pirouette:
“You know, something we — I’ve been thinking a lot about how America has responded [to Hurricane Katrina] , and it’s clear to me that Americans value human life, and value every person as important. And that stands in stark contrast, by the way, to the terrorists we have to deal with. You see, we look at the destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break. They’re the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We’re in a war against these people. It’s a war on terror. These are evil men who target the suffering. They killed 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001. And they’ve continued to kill.”
Bush also told the crowd how impressed he was with Sharon. “He decided to withdraw from Gaza. I’ll never forget when he came and told me that. My immediate reaction was, this is a bold step for peace, Mr. Prime Minister, and I support you. (Applause.) “
As it turns out, that support is being marked down. The cost of rebuilding New Orleans has put a bit of a dent in Israel’s plans to seek special U.S. funding to help cover the costs of its Gaza pullout.
Bush didn’t mention that to the RJC. I guess it wouldn’t have garnered nearly as much applause.