Just like a dog-whistle issues a sound that only a dog can hear, but which humans can’t, and to which it will respond immediately, a political dog-whistle issues sentiments which are purposely audible to certain segments of society and intended to make them respond in a specific way, but which other sectors cannot hear and don’t understand.
Barack Obama has become an expert in issuing anti-Jewish dog-whistles which have been sounding louder and clearer to the Jewish community and to Israel, while much of American society remains oblivious. In this way Obama manages to remain in plausible deniability of any malice towards Israel while in practice accusing Israel and/or the Jews of undermining American policies.
We can go much further back but for brevity’s sake I’ll start with January 2015 when he “dog-whistled” Netanyahu and insulted Congress into the bargain.
In July he blew his dog-whistle on the Jon Stewart show as he promoted his Iran deal:
In his efforts to get the JCPOA through congress, Obama is using a dog-whistle. He’s hinting broadly at anti-Semitic conceits—like dual loyalties, moneyed interests, Jewish lobby—to scare off Democrats tempted to vote against the JCPOA because they think it’s a bad deal. If they do come out against the agreement—if they line up, for instance, with the new organization AIPAC formed, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran—to warn the public “about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal,” then he’s going to tar them as dual loyalists who are willing to send Americans out to make war on behalf of Jewish causes.
But yesterday Obama outdid himself as his dog-whistle became almost audible as he singled out Israel by name in a speech at the American University in Washington (emphases added):
In an address to the American University in Washington, Obama said the Iran deal was “the strongest nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated. And because it’s such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support.”
The UN Security Council has “unanimously supported it,” Obama added, as well as over “100 former ambassadors who served under Democratic and Republican presidents.”
I have to admit that when I heard that little tidbit on the Israeli news I actually gasped out loud and couldn’t help exclaiming: “that chazzer!” (that pig!). Obama’s specific mention of Israel is simply opening the door for all the antisemites, the Israel-haters, those who accuse American Jews of dual loyalty, or of being Israel-firsters, to pile on onto Israel and the American Jewish community. It’s the political equivalent of crying “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
He tried to soften the accusation, or maybe he tried to cover his tracks, by some lip-service nod to Israel’s security:
Obama said he believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “sincere” in his opposition, but “wrong.”
“When the Israeli government is opposed to something, people in the United States take notice. They should,” Obama said. Iranian leaders “deny the Holocaust,” and “facilitate the flow of rockets” on Israeli cities. “In such a dangerous neighborhood, Israel has to be vigilant.” Obama said.
Israel “rightly” says it can only rely on itself for its security, he added.
Nonetheless, the president argued that thwarting Iran’s nuclear program, something he said the deal successfully does, remains the top priority.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world, than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief. I recognize that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees. I don’t doubt his sincerity. But I believe he is wrong,” Obama said.
He also repeated the tired old canard that:
The only alternative to the deal is war, Obama maintained, adding that he is not saying this to “be provocative.”
It’s “diplomacy or some form of war. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not three months from now, but soon,” Obama said.
Obama said the US had “no illusions” about Iran’s support for terror groups such as Hezbollah. “But they engaged in these activities for decades. Before sanctions, and while sanctions were in place. They even engaged in them during the Iran-Iraq War, which cost them a million lives. The truth is Iran has always found a way to fund these efforts.”
Moreover, Israel and the Gulf states have larger defense budgets, Obama said.
“Iran’s defense budget is eight times smaller than the combined Gulf allies. Its military will never compare to Israel’s, and our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge will guarantee that,” Obama said.
Sure, but what about the $150m that is going to be released to Iran immediately as soon as the sanctions are lifted? How will that stop Iran rebuilding its defense forces?
Here are some very relevant reactions on Twitter:
The fact that there is already a Congressional majority against the deal, albeit not enough yet to override a Presidential veto, was probably a contributing factor to Obama’s snide remarks. Congressman Roskam reproved the President for his “deal or war” comments:
Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL) spoke on national TV on Wednesday to discuss Congressional opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, after his resolution against the deal got a 218-member majority in the House of Representatives earlier this week.
Roskam, who is co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus and who has expressed confidence his resolution will achieve a 290-member majority that will be immune to US President Barack Obama’s veto, appeared on FOX Business‘s Cavuto show.
He explained that Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry have made a “flawed argument” in supporting the deal.
“Their argument was you either go with this deal or we’re going to war. But all during the negotiations…they said a different thing. They said ‘no deal is better than a bad deal.’ And if you argue no deal is better than a bad deal, then you’re arguing implicitly that there was an alternative. And it’s a false claim now for the White House to say there’s no alternative but war.”
Indeed, top US military officials have debunked Obama’s claim that the only options are the deal or war, noting that alternatives exist.
Alan Dershowitz also chided the President for getting too personal about the Iran deal:
President Obama, in his desperation to save his Iran deal, has taken to attacking its opponents in personal ways. He has accused critics of his deal of being the same republican war mongers who drove us into the ground war against Iraq and has warned that they would offer “overheated” and often dishonest arguments. He has complained about the influence of lobbyists and money on the process of deciding this important issue, as if lobbying and money were not involved in other important matters before Congress.
These types of ad hominem arguments are becoming less and less convincing as more democratic members of Congress, more liberal supporters of the President, more nuclear experts and more foreign policy gurus are expressing deep concern, and sometimes strong opposition to the deal that is currently before Congress.
The President would be well advised to stop attacking his critics and to start answering their hard questions with specific and credible answers.
If and when these and other important questions about the deal are answered—directly, candidly, and unambiguously—Congress will be in a better position to answer the fundamental questions now before it: would rejecting this deeply flawed deal produce more dangerous results than not rejecting it? If so, what can we now do to assure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear arsenal? The answers to those questions may profoundly affect the future of the world.
So the President should spend more time on substance and less on personal attacks.
Somehow I doubt the President will be listening. Dershowitz’s call is no dog-whistle. It’s too loud for Obama’s ears.