THE PLANK APRIL 14, 2008
A couple days ago, Ezra Klein suggested that Barack Obama's refusal to negotiate with Hamas is inconsistent with his beliefs and therefore must be a kowtow to the Israel lobby. I tried to explain that such a refusal is not at all inconsistent with Obama's position. Ezra, possibly unwilling to concede that on this narrow point he's simply wrong, replies with a flurry of unrelated arguments.
He begins, "Man, I remember last time Jon Chait was talking about "lefty foreign policy types," he was hating on them for opposing the Iraq War." Has it really been that long since I hated on lefty foreign policy types? I guess I need to pick up the pace. Anyway, I'm not sure what we're supposed to make of this. Does he object to being described as a "lefty foreign policy type?" If so, I apologize -- it struck me as a neutral description of someone who wants to move American foreign policy significantly leftward. I'll happily accept an alternate phrasing. However, I suspect the real purpose of this sentence was for Ezra to remind his readers that I'm a not-to-be-trusted hawk whose arguments they should disregard.
Next, Ezra subtly redefines the dispute. His item that I disagreed with claimed that Obama's stance on Hamas "doesn't really track with his past approach," and so he must have taken it because he "fears pressure" from the Israel lobby. Ezra now describes his position as saying Obama "might possibly be influenced" by the Israel lobby. I agree that it's possible that Obama's position might be influenced by the Israel lobby. But with all those qualifiers, that's a very weak statement.
Finally, Ezra turns the question into a normative debate about the perils of Israel's refusal to negotiate with Hamas. "Maybe Jon has some solution he's not telling anyone about," he snarks. No, sadly, I see nothing but bad alternatives But is it okay for me to make a narrow point about Obama and the Israel lobby, or must it be accompanied by a comprehensive Middle East peace plan?