Michael Barone on the political impact to Obama of the oil spill and anti-Israel UN resolution
HH: Right now, I’m pleased to welcome from the Washington Examiner Michael Barone. Hello, Michael, a very busy first day of June today.
MB: A very busy first day of June to you.
HH: I’ve got to begin with Israel. I’m outraged, actually, that the United States did not veto this resolution last night, Michael Barone. The President, Jake Tapper reported earlier today that there will be no daylight between Israel and the White House. Too late. When you’ve joined a resolution condemning the state of Israel, to your knowledge, have we ever done that in the first day after an incident before?
MB: I am not sure whether we have ever done that before. You know, we did take in 1956 a pretty negative view of the joint Israeli-British-French operation in Egypt, but that’s going back kind of a ways, isn’t it?
HH: And I don’t believe Ike acted in the first day before the facts are in. That’s what I can’t understand, Michael Barone. Who knows what happened on this boat?
MB: Well, there seems to be, you know, a certain anti-Israel animus in this administration that we haven’t seen in recent administrations in the last fifteen or twenty years in Washington. And you know, it’s sort of indulging the assumption that somehow Israel is seen as a first-world imperialist oppressor, and the Palestinians, even when they’re engaged actively in terrorism against civilians, are seen as virtuous, third-world victims and all that sort of thing. It’s common sight on campus and left wing circles, and we see it in public opinion now with Republican voters being very strongly, almost unanimously pro-Israel, and Democratic voters are kind of split.
HH: You know, I’d like to ask you where you think this is coming from, because normally, I have been amazed at how reticent the traditional defenders of Israel have been to step up and say at least this much, which is we are going to wait until we see what happened here, and we want more facts on who is behind this flotilla, and there is some great reporting over at the Weekly Standard on that, by the way. But the Israeli supporters in the United States have not been really heard from, Michael. Am I mistaken in that? Are you surprised?
MB: I think we haven’t heard a whole lot from them. Perhaps it’s the weekend, this and that. But I think part of it is that some of them are uncomfortable with Israel taking a pro-active action here. Part of them may be uncomfortable with it doesn’t seem to have been very effective, and to have had negative, you know, the tactics actually used seem to be not optimal in terms of achieving the Israeli practical results of staunching the flow of negative shipments into the Gaza area. I mean, the fact is that you know, this is a terrorist operation that was done by groups that are confederates of terrorists. Israel being in a state of conflict is entitled to take action in the open seas against a terrorist enemy, and I think that we should be backing them, and not going around trying to join the crowd that sees Israel somehow as the key violator of human rights in the whole world.
HH: You know, that’s exactly my response, and I have been amazed at the reticence. And I think some of it has to do with the fact that the Obama administration has changed official Washington’s view of Israel quite dramatically in fifteen months. They clearly are not where Bush was, vis-à-vis Israel, and you know, I think supporters of Israel have to take note of that. Let me ask you, Michael Barone, about the president’s response in the Gulf as well. I wrote a piece for our common publication, the Washington Examiner, today about the 2% solution. The Army Corps of Engineers has approved 2% of what Bobby Jindal wants to do, and David Vitter is angry. Do you think the president has any clue as to how he is perceived when it comes to fecklessness in the Gulf?
MB: Well, I think he may be getting something of a clue. He had that rather defensive press conference, which he did not seem to be in command. It kind of reminded me of the time when President Bush flew over New Orleans, but didn’t stop down there. It looked kind of feckless, even though if he had landed, he would have caused a disruption of the immediate effects, and that it was something like two days after the disaster struck, and not something like 36 days after the disaster struck. But I think you know, this administration, as I said in my Washington Examiner column on Sunday, that has already lost the battle of public opinion on ideology, and now they seem to be in danger of losing the public battle in terms of perceived competence as a result of this. I don’t know how effective Bobby Jindal’s proposals would be, or you know, what the odds are, what the technical arguments are. But it seems to me that we’re talking about a situation where we really don’t want to see the built-in delays, the delays that are built into our environmental approval projects, being imposed in this emergency situation. That strikes me as quite weird and crazy.
HH: You know, Michael, it’s like…
MB: And yet, Hugh, you know from your work as an environmental lawyer that delay and obfuscation and so forth is the name of the game there.
HH: It is, and I’m amazed by when they should move quickly, with dispatch and decisiveness, the Gulf, they don’t. And when they should be cautious and make sure they have the facts assembled, and there is no urgency in that instance, the UN resolution, they rush to judgment. And it’s I think because of the deep ideological reflexiveness in this administration, Michael.
MB: Well, in this administration, the president, he sees ordinary Americans as the oppressors in the world, our Israel allies are similarly, and you have to cabin in the power of these people, the view goes, in order to somehow have a just world. The presumption is against the American people.
HH: A couple of other stories today. Al Gore and Tipper Gore separating. I’ll ask Mike Allen after the break how surprised he is. What about you, Michael Barone?
MB: Astonished. I had met the Gores over the years. I don’t pretend to know much about the internal dynamics of any marriage, much less one of public figures that I don’t know very well. But they always seemed to be quite a happy couple, and one that had gone through some difficult experiences together. And so I’m just, I’m sad.
HH: It is. It’s very shocking. Now what about the Supreme Court decision on Miranda? I doubt very much you’ve had a chance to read all the opinions yet…
MB: I have not.
HH: But 5-4, and all of a sudden now, suspects are going to have to say I want my Miranda rights. This is pretty fundamental. How does it play politically, if at all?
MB: Well, I haven’t read that decision, Hugh, so I’m at a loss to comment on it.
HH: All right, let me get your final predictions in California for the Senate and Governor races on the Republican side, Michael Barone. That happens a week from today.
MB: Well, it looks like the, if you believe the polling evidence, it looks like the year of the woman in the Republican primaries. We had a huge celebration of that when Democratic women won in ’92. I suspect the celebration will be more retrained if these women, Meg Whitman in the governor’s race, and Carly Fiorina in the Senate race win. I would just say this, though, Hugh, that the polls have been very volatile in California. Fiorina was in kind of a two-way battle for first, and then suddenly, she shoots way up. And I think you’ve got an electorate there that’s pretty low informational, and that doesn’t get much information except from television commercials, aside from those who are plugged in and really reading Hughhewitt.com, and who are high informational. And so I would not rule out some surprises in California.
HH: Michael Barone, always a pleasure. They’re reading the Washington Examiner and Michael Barone’s stuff as well. Thank you, Michael.
End of interview.