Two politicians, one Democratic--President Obama--and the other a Republican presidential wannabe--Rick Santorum--embarrassed themselves and, in so doing, tossed a pie in the faces of many Americans. Of course, it is a bit unfair to equate the two as one is a member in good standing of a large but still fringe group of We the People and the other is the chief executive of a country which is still a Great Power even in its self-inflicted decline.
Santorum, in his bid for commemoration in the Hall of Exceptional Bad Taste In Politics was assisted by members of the audience present for the Fox/Google Debate in Florida. A large portion of the audience was comprised of the same sort of self-destructive Republicans as had made noteworthy performances in two previous debates. These people constitute the slavering red meat eaters of the intellectually challenged segment of the Party of Elephants whose most evident characteristics are a lack of good taste, a deficiency in empathy, and, most importantly a strong unconscious desire to lose elections.
The former senator from Pennsylvania and champion of the farther Right shores of the badly misnamed "social conservative" wing of the GOP was goaded into a profound demonstration of deep ignorance regarding the realities of military life particularly during wartime by a question posed by a gay soldier currently stationed in Iraq. The question had to do with the deletion of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) so that homosexuals can serve openly in the US armed forces.
Needless to detail at length, Mr Santorum is against the current policy. He would seek to turn the calender back to the years of DADT with the accompanying demand that non-heterosexuals engage in a combination of deceit and denial. Leaving aside the political impossibility (and ignoring the boos issuing from the oral cavities of the denizens of the Very Very Right) suffice it to note that Santorum's stated desire to emulate Dr Who or Mr Peabody constituted the lesser part of his exceptional ignorance of military life.
The peak of Santorum's idiocy and lack of knowledge came when he stated, "any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military."
That observation is a show stopper for sure. As any and everyone who has spent time in any of the armed forces knows, sex is a constant and highly favored activity often bordering on obsession. So it has been since Achilles was a private. So it will be as long as young people are found in a military service. Even years hence when combat is delegated to machines, it is highly probable that the people monitoring the killbots will have a hard time keeping their utilities buttoned tightly.
Not since the anti-sex campaigns of World Wars I and II when the American morality police pretended that our troops were so pure of heart and mind that they must be protected from the evils of prostitutes both amateur and professional has anyone betrayed the degree of out-to-lunchness exhibited by Mr Santorum. If, indeed, he really does believe what he said, then he has disqualified himself from serious consideration for any office of trust and confidence under the Constitution by virtue of pure, unadulterated ignorance and irremediable stupidity (or ideological blindness.)
A far more important bit of televised damage was inflicted on the US by President Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly. It was more than enough to make a person squirm in raw and unrelieved embarrassment as the POTUS delivered a set of remarks which could have been written by the execrable foreign minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman. The kindest explanation for the presidential exhibition of seriously pathetic policy arises from the overarching Obama need to be reelected--and the crucial relation between that goal and the Israel Lobby.
As the recent by-election in New York demonstrated, there is a strong current of unhappiness with Obama's stance on Israel within the American Jewish community. Shoring up support in this portion of the eroding Democratic base is an urgent matter. Not surprisingly, more than a few political analysts both here and abroad have identified this as the prime mover behind the Obama position, which constituted a nearly complete reversal of policy (such as it was) a year ago.
The problem with this explanation even if it is as accurate as appears, is that international politics is a more unforgiving arena than the domestic sort. Very real lives are at stake. Very real countries with equally real interests are in play. The issue of an Israel-Palestinian settlement is inherently existential in nature and does not allow for the flexibility or retakes common in domestic affairs.
The president threw away the good offices stature once enjoyed by the US. The strident tones and relatively extreme nature of his position taken in the context of past stances undercut any possibility of Washington being seen as an honest broker seeking a fair and equitable solution to the several seemingly intractable problems besetting the Israelis and their Palestinian interlocutors.
This leaves the task to such as the European Union or the Quartet with the US playing a marginal role at best. Mr Obama's "approved by AIPAC" speech also eroded to the point of nonexistence any influence Washington might have had with the Palestinian Authority or its Mideast state supporters. Worse, the president appeared to put the US squarely in opposition to the majority of the "Arab Spring" movers and shakers.
This last consideration is arguably the most critical of all. While the US would see its influence reduced in any event as the groups espousing austere, politically oriented Islam will be the power either in or behind the throne in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and elsewhere, there was and remains no need to reduce influence all the more. The status of the Palestinians ranks high as a motivator on much of the "Arab street." While it is more than a bit hypocritical that this was not the case in the ancient days when Jordan "occupied" the West Bank and Egyptian troops held the supreme hand in the Gaza Strip, it is a reality today which must be recognized and addressed by American policymakers.
Obama's Mideast policy (to use the term generically only) has been and remains an area deserving of the attentions and ministrations of FEMA. He and his "team" have done the seemingly impossible--gotten each and every aspect wrong for more than two and a half years. Far more than even George W. Bush, the Nice Young Man From Chicago has managed to alienate every stakeholder in each and every Arab state as well as non-Arab countries such as Turkey. The UNGA address was the final nail in the coffin of American presence in the Mideast.
Santorum (with the able aid of the boo happy bunch) humiliated the Republican Party in the eyes of all but the most avid of elephants. Mr Obama did much more. The president managed--without assistance--to put the US firmly behind the eight ball throughout the rapidly changing Mideast.
No American president has done that before. No American president in search of reelection has ever degraded the influence of his country in pursuit of votes. Finally, Mr Obama has something real to apologize for.