There are important things happening in the world. For example, we on our way to Nebraska for a dance recital. Yes, the Burnetts do Omaha, current hometown of Dairy Queen – our favorite gourmet treat (thanks, Warren Buffett for keeping that brand alive. He likes Dilly Bars.) It’s a long and lovely story and if we actually get out of foggy LaGuardia, we will report on the trip next week.
But that’s next week. This week the news is all about the President’s trip abroad, the President’s nominations for plum Ambassadorships, the disappearance of the Air France flight from Brazil to Paris, and, speaking of Brazil, the failure to return Sean Goldman to his dad. Since I never talk about air crashes when I’m about to fly, I’ll skip over that subject and go right to political appointments. It is my belief that the President has a right to be represented by anyone he wants – even if they are incredibly rich. Having been a political appointment who was friendly with the Ambassador of France during the Clinton Administration, and having been the recipient of the very competent Ambassador Harriman’s generosity, (I always had my own suite in the Residence,) I believe it is important to let important campaign donors have some fun for all their hard fundraising work. Even if they may know nothing about the Diplomatic world. Besides, there are always professional diplomats around to prevent the politicals from making fools of themselves. (OK, so they aren’t always successful ...) So, I liked it when Clinton did it, I didn’t like it when Bush did, and I’m fine with Obama doing it. Only I think the real plum job -- I the Consul General in Bermuda—I wonder if that’s still available.
On a more controversial note, do we think Obama’s speech in Egypt helped or hurt him here at home? Probably those people who said, “I’m not voting for some Muslim” are saying, “See, I told you so.” And the Israelis, who are out there building settlements, are thinking, “should I buy more nails?” But what about the rest of us. Probably http://www.dailymail.com/News/statenews/200906040833, it’s a good idea for him to visit a concentration camp because that says to the Jews who are nervous, “I feel your there but for God go I pain”.
The real difference between this speech and so many other Presidential speeches – here or abroad-- is that this President took on a particularly sensitive issue, and didn’t screw around with diplomatic flourishes. He talked to a population who have felt neglected and ignored and he said, ‘here’s what our policy is going to be.’ He made policy in a speech. That’s not something that happens frequently. Our relationships in the Middle East are very complicated, but in the realm of public diplomacy, (people to people), he thought it was important for about a billion and a half Muslims (many of them in Boonton, N..J.) to hear that the US is aware of the problems. Some would say Obama has emerged from that speech beloved by many nations. Maybe. Some will say it was actually a warning to Israel about the US position on Peace. Maybe. Some will say that it’s business as usual and all about political expediency. Maybe.
There are always a great many maybe’s when it comes to Middle East policy. But I’m glad that Elie Weisel will travel with the President in Germany because it’s very important for this trip to Buchenwald to be more than a tour. The President needs to understand what Jews around the world feel about any threat to Israel. And that is the best lesson he can learn. Maybe. We’re just sayin...Iris