Taking down the Obama posters

By Jeffrey Kass

I remember election eve 2008 vividly. Hundreds of people packed into a local St. Louis bar crying and hugging as Barack Obama became the first African American president in America’s 230 year history. I could not contain myself either. What a proud day in American history, I thought. 

That grand moment did not erase the years of abuse endured by the descendants of slaves in this country, nor did it end the unacceptable racism that still persists in this country, but it certainly was a giant step towards healing.

The celebration really was not only because Obama is African American. Obama had substance. Smart. Savvy. Engaging. Compassionate. A bridge builder. A communicator. Distinct from some of the mean-spirited and sometimes hateful African American leaders of recent memory-Farrakhan, Jackson, Sharpton et al. You know the familiar list. You could see it in the looks on everyone’s faces on election eve. Obama was something great most people could celebrate. Finally someone my hero Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been proud of. A true believer in justice and compassion.


I cried as I watched the enormous Chicago crowd fill the television screens.

Ironically, though, the more I learned about Obama during the campaign, the more undecided I had become. Was Obama going to be another Jimmy Carter – who was miserable on the homefront, and even worse internationally?

Was he going to hug terrorists, bow down to evil leaders and bash his friends, as Carter has done throughout his life?

Or was Obama going to be the level-headed lover of all people I sensed he might be.

Was I to blame Obama for his associations with anti-Semites in the past, or was I to going to give Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume he did not share their views on all issues? After all, Reagan several times embraced the racist Bob Jones University crew. Did that make Reagan a racist? Ultimately, I chose hope over fear and voted for Obama (plus, the thought of Sarah Palin in the White House nauseates me).

Even as Obama showed early signs of bias against Israel, and an unwillingness to do anything about Iran except stall, I apologized for him. I urged people to view his actions as part of a greater strategy of gathering world support against Iran and engaging the Arab world.

Imagine if Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States started doing business with and engaging Israel, I said to people. Imagine if the entire world rallied against Iran?

I thought maybe Obama was just trying a different strategy since the “axis of evil” name-calling-give-our-enemies-the-finger strategy of his predecessor did nothing to make the world more secure, help Israel or stop Iran’s Hitler from going nuclear. The bomb-Iraq-on-faulty-intelligence-information strategy was a failure. Let’s give Obama a chance with this new approach, I suggested.

I chose what I thought was hope over fear.

But after 16 months of Obama and his administration doing nothing about Iran, bashing Israel and other allies while warmly greeting [Venezuela President Hugo] Chavez, creating tension between America and Israel based on issues which never have been obstacles to peace in the first place, causing the Arabs to be more unwilling to compromise than anytime in 20 years, the only conclusion any rational person can make is that Obama really is Jimmy Carter in sheep’s clothes – maybe worse, because at least most people know who Jimmy Carter is.

To be sure, the public bashing of Israel and the beg Iran to talk after they have said no 50 times approach are only the headlines. Obama recently refused to complete a shipment of bunker bombs to Israel that could be used in an attack to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are hidden in mountains. His Administration has stalled extra parts orders requested by the Israeli military. And while the U.S. has denied the following, there are credible reports that Obama has refused visas to Israeli nuclear scientists who have for years attended conferences in the U.S. on chemistry and physics. Other reports claim that he has stopped shipments of components used by Israel in reactors for the first time in 20 years. He recently suggested that he might abstain from the latest U.N. Israel bashing resolution in the pipeline-a first for the U.S. in my adult life. Obama’s rhetoric suggests that he and others in his administration actually view Israel’s policy of building houses in Jerusalem as a strategic threat to the U.S.

Obama resentment against Israel is the worst we have seen in over 30 years. Americans had many good reasons to let Obama try something new with health care, the economy, financial regulation, the auto industry and the like. It is rational to want a more aggressive environmental and energy policy than before (was there one?). To want a greener planet. More jobs. But the stakes are way too high to let Obama to continue his foreign policy without a fight. It really won’t matter whether GM fails or the health care system works better or we use less plastic bags if the Hitler of Iran acquires nukes. Or if Israel is forced into the fight of its life.

The usually left-leaning Anti-Defamation League even labeled Obama’s Middle East policy as “faulty” and “deeply distressing” in a recent statement. “Obama is wrongly shifting responsibility from the Arab world to Israel,” said director Abraham Foxman. Pro-Obama Senator Charles Schumer called Obama’s Mideast policy “Counter-Productive.” Another 75 Senators wrote Obama this month to ask for a change in foreign policy direction.

Maybe it is time to question why Obama never raised a voice when his pastor of many years blasted Israel over and over again. In contrast, ADL’s Foxman quit his synagogue when his rabbi said things that were, in Foxman’s mind, reprehensible and unacceptable to him. Far less offensive than Wright, too.

On April 1, 2010, I took down my framed Obama victory posters and artwork. The only fools were the people who voted for him. Some April fool’s joke.

Jeffrey Kass is an attorney in St. Louis and freelance writer. He formerly was a board member of the Anti-Defamation League of St. Louis, president of the Urban League Young Professionals and the president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Zionist Organization of America.