Thanksgiving has rolled around again, and thankfully it’s one of our secular holidays. Fox News cannot go on a tear about how merchants are making Jesus cry by wishing folks Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, all part of the effort by the secular left to oppress the already beleaguered and outnumbered Christians, mocking and belittling the very people who made America and who are America. That will come later. It does every year, as it’s good for ratings with their core demographic, but Fox News doesn’t know what to do with Thanksgiving. It’s not even patriotic in any way. No one waves flags or talks about the troops, or accuses this person or that of treason for not wearing a flag pin. Thanksgiving isn’t a day to argue which two or three countries we should invade and occupy next, to make them more like us, as we do everything better than anyone else ever has. No one waves flags on Thanksgiving – they just eat far too much and watch the Detroit Lions lose another football game on national television. And Jesus can take care of himself for a day. He’ll be fine. This is just a day to kick back and be thankful for what you’ve got, as meager as it might be. That’s not a bad thing to do once each year. Perspective is a good thing.
That makes Thanksgiving a day to make a list of what you’re thankful for, sometimes even pretending it’s your extended family, with all those odd distant cousins and aunts and uncles you never understood at all and never really liked that much. Sometimes you’re just thankful for the core family – Katie Holmes, recently divorced from the intensely odd Tom Cruise, took the kid and flew home to Toledo to hang out with her father and her sisters. That’s a Thanksgiving thing, even if she has to be back on Broadway the next night. Folks who aren’t young and beautiful and rich and talented do the same sort of thing too. Get back to the basics. Appreciate what you’ve got. Things work out, more or less.
There’s always something to be thankful for. Democrats are thankful that Obama was reelected, and millions who voted for Obama are thankful that soon they’ll be able to buy health insurance no one would sell them before, and get help doing so if they cannot afford what the big for-profit insurance companies decide to charge. Those big for-profit insurance companies are probably thankful too – they get millions and millions of new paying customers, more than enough of them to cover the cost of some pretty sick people they’d never have touched before. Republicans are also thankful – thankful that Mitt Romney is gone. Republicans are thankful he has become almost instantly obscure. He was spotted filling his SUV at a service station in La Jolla, looking a bit seedy and disheveled, and later up in Anaheim at Disneyland, with his grandkids. That was it. He wasn’t saying anything about the forty-seven percent, the hopeless moochers, or about how Obama bribed blacks and Hispanics and sex-crazed young women with those absurd gifts – welfare for those without jobs, no deportation for young men and women who were brought here as babies and know no other country, and guaranteed access to contraceptives and cancer screenings. Those comments caused no end of trouble, but Romney is now gone. Giving thanks is in order. They never really liked him much anyway.
Those who worry about the world blowing up, starting with another war in the Middle East that gets out of hand, this year were thankful that, on the day before Thanksgiving, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire in Gaza. There were parades in the streets of Gaza City and no one was firing rockets north into Israel, and Israel stopped dropping bombs and stopped doing targeted assassinations and decided not to invade the place just yet. This was not a truce, and it certainly wasn’t a peace treaty, as nothing much was resolved. It was just an agreement to stop slugging it out for now. Both sides knew that was going nowhere and too many people were dying, mostly randomly. So they stopped that. It wasn’t much, but you should be thankful for what you’ve got, as meager as it might be.
This wasn’t easy of course. The New York Times has the complex story – Obama sent Hillary Clinton in to work with the parties – Israel and the Palestinians. It’s just that this was a puzzle. There are two Palestinian governments, the Palestinian Authority up north, in the West Bank, dull and efficient and careful, and Hamas down in the Gaza Strip, the crazies forever shouting Death to Israel and lobbing rockets north into Tel Aviv, and this time into Jerusalem. Ask any Palestinian which they prefer and the answer will depend on the day of the week. This was complicated by the fact that the United States years ago declared Hamas a terrorist organization – an official designation from Congress. Hillary Clinton was forbidden, by law, from talking to Hamas – at all. She had to talk to President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, the new president there, whose party is the Muslim Brotherhood, an offshoot of Hamas, or the other way around depending on how you read the history of such things. She couldn’t talk to Hamas so she talked to Morsi, and he talked to Hamas.
So there she was, flying from Jerusalem to Cairo, stopping in the West Bank, again and again and again, relaying positions and proposals back and forth between parties who wouldn’t talk to each other, concerning the demands and possible concessions from a third party she was forbidden to talk to at all. Diplomacy is not easy, but she pulled it off:
During the Cairo news conference, Clinton thanked Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi for his mediation efforts and pledged to work with partners in the region “to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, provide security for the people of Israel.”
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the agreement, adding that he had spoken with President Barack Obama and had agreed to fight together against “weapons of terror.”
“Israel cannot sit with its arms folded against its enemies,” he said in a news conference. Netanyahu paid tribute to U.S. diplomacy and Morsi’s leadership, but also to Israel’s resolve and the armed forces. “I am proud to be your prime minister,” he said.
According to the cease-fire agreement: Israel will stop attacks on Gaza by land, sea and air and stop incursions and targeted assassinations; Palestinian factions will stop hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel; Israel will ease the movement of people and goods at border-crossing areas. Egypt is the “sponsor” of the cease-fire agreement.
That means that Egypt now kind of owns the Gaza problem, maybe something they won’t be thankful for. We’ll see, but now that there is a cease-fire, Peter Beinart finds one thing we can finally get straight:
Remember all the warnings from the Israeli and American Jewish right about how we’d see the “real” Obama after he was reelected. It was nonsense then, and it’s been proven to be nonsense now. Obama’s general orientation in this crisis – support Israel’s right to attack, protect it from United Nations reprimand and then negotiate a ceasefire – was essentially the same one Mitt Romney would have pursued. The difference is that Obama did it carefully and skillfully, with maximum effect and minimum bluster. Throughout the presidential campaign, Republicans discounted Obama’s material support for Israel – as embodied by the American funding for Iron Dome – and focused on what he supposedly didn’t feel in his kishkes. Now in a war in which vast numbers of missiles were fired from Gaza, many Israelis are alive because of Iron Dome.
Iron Dome was that fancy antimissile system we funded that those on the right said was nothing much, saying that Obama must have been kidding. Oops. Additionally, the Guardian notes that the reality is that Israel had no choice, because Obama wanted the cease-fire and the Israelis have four more years of Obama, even if Netanyahu did pretty much drop by and campaign for Mitt Romney:
Barack Obama heaped praise on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire plan and offered increased US funding to beef up Israel’s air defense batteries. The White House, in an unusual twist, highlighted that Netanyahu had followed Obama’s advice, which was to accept the ceasefire deal.
The statement from the White House was couched in extremely supportive terms for Israel, which the Obama administration views as necessary if it is to hold out hopes of persuading Netanyahu further down the line to engage in broader peace negotiations.
Ah, Obama made me do it! If the cease-fire does hold, Binyamin Netanyahu has a way out. Still, as Beinart also notes, there are other serious problems. We’ve legitimized Hamas, the crazies, and rendered the Palestinian Authority, up north, useless. Those guys speak for no one anymore. At the Time site, Tony Karon explains this:
Rather than marginalizing and isolating Hamas – a stated U.S. and Israeli goal – Israel’s operation “has only enhanced the centrality of that organization,” notes Council on Foreign Relations analyst Robert Danin. “That by-product is entirely consistent with Israel’s aim – to compel Hamas to take responsibility for developments in Gaza … Israel’s goal now is not to destroy Hamas but to compel it to behave more responsibly and keep order in Gaza. Much of the mortar fire over the past year against southern Israel has been launched by groups more radical than Hamas. By holding Hamas responsible, Israel inadvertently bolsters Hamas’ standing and legitimacy as the ultimate power broker and arbiter in Gaza.”
Now things get interesting:
If things are normalized in Gaza with Hamas in charge, Hamas effectively becomes a second Palestinian mini-statelet. Some Israelis believe that would be a very good idea. Retired General Giora Eiland, national security adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, this week urged that Israel agree to lift the blockade of Gaza and begin to engage with Hamas as the government there, precisely in order to stabilize its separate status. Some Israeli analysts even urge their government to encourage Cairo to open its own border crossings with Gaza, which would allow the territory’s economic reintegration to take place primarily through Egypt. “[Such a] move would signal the completion of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, slowly handing over responsibility for the area’s economic needs to the Egyptian government,” writes Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari. “Egypt, which already perceives itself as a patron of Hamas, would see this situation favorably because it would grant Cairo more influence over the group.”
That, however, may be a development too far for Egypt. There are limits to how much responsibility Cairo will accept for Gaza, warns Hanna. “If Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing without Israel doing the same at its own crossings into Gaza, there’d be champagne corks popping in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They won’t do that, because Egypt won’t shoulder the burden of Gaza, which could end the possibility of a unified Palestinian state.” Indeed, specifically because of its support for a two-state solution, Egypt will be leery of being drawn into a Gaza arrangement that might be construed as a three-state solution.
There are wheels within wheels here, but now we have an ally we didn’t expect:
Even Israeli leaders have praised the response from Cairo, notwithstanding Egypt’s unprecedented public acts of solidarity with Hamas. Morsi had made clear when he addressed the U.N. General Assembly in September that his government would both abide by the 1978 Camp David peace treaty with Israel and challenge the status quo in the Palestinian territories. “I say it loudly to those wondering about our position vis-à-vis the international agreements and conventions that we have previously adhered to: We are committed to what we have signed on,” Morsi said at the time. “We also support the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and are determined to pursue all efforts side by side with them until they regain their rights.”
It seems that the scary guy from the Muslim Brotherhood is really a teddy bear, or at least a reasonable fellow who doesn’t want ruin and chaos. That’s something to be thankful for. There’s not peace in this critical hotspot in the Middle East now, there’s not even a truce – it’s just a cease-fire that may not hold, and the whole Palestinian question is still a mess. But some Thanksgivings you give thanks for what you get. This will do for now.
Oh, and by the way, something else was cleared up on the day before Thanksgiving. That had to do with the Benghazi mess – where Obama was that evil man who essentially murdered our ambassador to Libya and those three others with him, by ordering our military to stand down and let the bad guys kill them all, because Obama always sides with the terrorists, or more charitably, because he was in over his head and froze. That was the line on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh’s show and nowhere else at all, and there was no evidence that Obama did anything of the kind of course.
What happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, was awful – but what actually happened is still not clear even now. Nevertheless, that evening, Mitt Romney jumped right in and excoriated Obama because a low-level worker at the embassy in Cairo, hundreds of miles to the east, had released a statement, earlier in the day, denouncing that amateurish video mocking Islam, in hopes of staving off the street riots that might come. The riots happened anyway, and Romney decided the earlier Cairo statement had been issued by the administration itself, and had actually been issued after what happened in Benghazi. It was an apology of some sort, because Obama is always apologizing for America, and Mitt Romney would never do that. This was before anyone knew our people had been killed, so that was a little awkward, as was the fact that Romney had everything wrong, or charitably, out of sequence.
For a day and a half Romney remained all stiff and righteous, saying he certainly did have his facts right and in perfect proper sequence, but then he fell silent. Most of the press, except for Fox News, gently and carefully reported what had actually happened, in sequence. They didn’t call Romney a liar and a fool and a repulsive opportunist ghoul – they only said this is what happened in this order, and this is what Mitt Romney said, and then they cut to commercial. The damage was done. Romney moved on.
John McCain didn’t move on. He decided Susan Rice was the problem. Our ambassador to the UN had been on all the Sunday talk shows saying this wasn’t a terrorist attack, when it clearly was, as McCain somehow knew. She was either lying or incompetent. She’d never get Hillary Clinton’s job – McCain would lead a filibuster. John McCain and Lindsey Graham then started saying that this horrifying cover-up was quite possibly the greatest crime in the history of the United States government or some such thing. They were going to get to the bottom of this with a select committee – a “Watergate-style committee” of course. If she wasn’t lying, someone was. Maybe it was Obama. Someone fed her those talking points, not telling the American people the truth – this was really an al-Qaeda attack.
At a later press conference, Obama let it rip when he was asked about threats from Lindsey Graham and John McCain to block the nomination of Susan Rice to be Secretary of State:
Let me say specifically about Susan Rice: She has done exemplary work… If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the UN ambassador? Who had nothing to do with Benghazi? And was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? To besmirch her reputation is outrageous.
Lindsey Graham was having none of that:
Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack… Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle.
What debacle? And then the day before Thanksgiving, John McCain was forced to acknowledge there is no evidence that Susan Rice was responsible for editing CIA talking points after the Benghazi attack:
I am somewhat surprised and frustrated to read reports that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was responsible for removing references to Al-Qaeda from the unclassified talking points about the Benghazi attack that Ambassador Susan Rice and other officials used in the early days after September 11, 2012. I participated in hours of hearings in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week regarding the events in Benghazi, where senior intelligence officials were asked this very question, and all of them – including the Director of National Intelligence himself – told us that they did not know who made the changes. Now we have to read the answers to our questions in the media. There are many other questions that remain unanswered. But this latest episode is another reason why many of us are so frustrated with, and suspicious of, the actions of this Administration when it comes to the Benghazi attack.
What does he want to know? The Director of National Intelligence was responsible for removing the references to al-Qaeda – they were going after some specific bad guys and didn’t want to tip them off. Obama and the CIA and Defense signed off on that, and everyone agreed on the revised talking points. It was a matter of getting things done, of getting the bad guys, and thus John McCain was left high and dry:
Today’s news comes just a week after McCain went on national television and claimed that Rice’s talking points came from the White House, not from the DNI. He added on Fox News that “I think it’s patently obvious that the talking points that Ambassador Rice had didn’t come from the CIA. It came from the White House.” For weeks, McCain has lambasted the administration for engaging in “either a cover-up or the worst kind of incompetence” on the Benghazi attack.
John McCain will be eating crow for Thanksgiving, stuffed with rice. Ending Susan Rice’s career and thus humiliating Obama, or impeaching Obama over this, or both, are now off the table.
They’ll have to find something else. The rest of us can be thankful for a little less nonsense this Thanksgiving. It’s time to eat too much and watch a bad football game. Perspective is a good thing.