Thomas Friedman's Hypocrisy on 'Far Right' Dangerously Delegitimizing Obama
Making a truly odious comparison, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman claimed parallels between the behavior of anti-Obama protestors (who have been quite peaceful) to that of "extreme right-wing settlers" in Israel before the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Friedman warned that "criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination." But where was this concern for the presidency when the left worked non-stop to delegitimize George W. Bush?
From Wednesday's column, "Where Did 'We' Go?"
I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.
I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then -- a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.
And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish settler as a license to kill Rabin -- he must have heard, "God will be on your side" -- and so he did.
Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.
What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, "Should Obama be killed?" The choices were: "No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care." The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.
Friedman is either being hypocritical or took a nap for the eight years of the Bush administration, which was a non-stop assault on Bush's legitimacy from the left. As Victor Davis Hanson reminded us:
The Left is now furious that, as the new establishment, the rules of discourse are not more polite. But from 2002-8, they (Who are "they"? Try everyone from Al Gore to John Glenn to Robert Byrd to Sen. Durbin), employed every Nazi/brown shirt slur they could conjure up. NPR's folksy old Garrison Keillor was indistinguishable from mean-spirited Michael Moore in that regard.
The New York Times gave a discount for a disgusting "General Betray Us" ad. The Democratic Party head Howard Dean flatly said he "hated" Republicans. Hilary Clinton all but called Gen. Petraeus a liar in a congressional hearing. The New Republic ran an essay on hating George Bush (not opposing, not disliking, but "hating" the President). Alfred Knopf published a novel about killing Bush. A Guardian op-ed dreamed of Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth coming back to kill Bush. And on and on.
But Friedman barely acknowledged any kind of attacks on Bush by the left.
Sometimes I wonder whether George H.W. Bush, president "41," will be remembered as our last "legitimate" president. The right impeached Bill Clinton and hounded him from Day 1 with the bogus Whitewater "scandal." George W. Bush was elected under a cloud because of the Florida voting mess, and his critics on the left never let him forget it.