Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore appeared on MSNBC’s “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” a day after the midterm elections. After viewing a short clip of President Obama’s White House Press Conference from earlier in the day, O’Donnell provided the set up by way of sarcasm: “[The president] finally understands what the voters want him to do.” Moore smirked his response, “No,” and explained that we all like Obama because he’s a good guy, very well meaning, and generous of spirit. And then Michael Moore said something interesting about the president:
“Here’s what he doesn’t get: When your opponent states clearly that ‘our number one job in the next two years is to make sure you don’t have a second term, our number one job is to defeat you and embarrass you,’ you don’t respond with Kumbaya, let’s hold hands. What part of what they are saying to him doesn’t he get?”
O’Donnell quipped, “Do you know what your opponent sounds like when he says that? An enemy.”
For Moore and O’Donnell, the idea that Obama fails to understand something so clear apparently applies only to domestic opponents across the aisle and not terrorist-supporting dictators. Iran supports terrorists across the globe; their nuclear program is but the latest bone of contention with the West. The recent classified documents obtained by WikiLeaks detail Hezb’allah’s destructive role in Iraq under the direct command of the Iranian regime. Iran’s goal is to defeat and embarrass the U.S. in the Middle East. Which part of what Iran is saying and doing do they not get?
Syria has been playing a double-game with the U.S. since the 1990s. First the Clinton administration and now the Obama administration seems to believe it can pry Syria away from its durable relationship with Iran by hoping for change in Damascus in exchange for gestures from Washington. In February 2010 – the same month President Obama named a new ambassador to Syria – the Asad regime began importing sensitive nuclear-related military equipment from North Korea; exported Syrian-made Fateh-110 missiles to Hezbollah; began training the terrorist group in the use of SA-2 and SA-6 surface-to-surface missiles; mocked Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration with Ahmadinejad over dinner in Damascus; met with Hezbollah’s leader during lunch; vowed to strengthen its relationship with Tehran; pledged to continue support for the resistance; and threatened missile attacks against Israeli cities. President Obama’s response was the diplomatic equivalent of “Kumbaya, let’s hold hands.”
Indeed, Mr. O’Donnell and Mr. Moore: When countries such as Iran and Syria have repeatedly slapped President Obama’s outstretched hand, do you know what they sound like? Our enemies. As the 112th Congress is set to convene in January, one can only hope that the lessons of the previous years will be learned and applied to those who are America’s enemies abroad with the same crystal clarity you reserve for partisan adversaries at home.
Matthew RJ Brodsky is the Director of Policy at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington, D.C.