Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Last Year at This Time

As I wrote below about being on vacation, I'm currently at my parents' home in Maryland. We come here for vacation so my mom can take care of our kids while my wife and I try to relax. My mom is the only one who has the same energy level as my eldest, so it's a good match.

This year has a totally different feel from 2006. Besides the obvious facet of our having a whole 'nother child along (which makes the adult to kid ratio inadequate for a full bore relaxation), I see from this computer (and from the blog template) what I was fixated on 12 months ago: 1. the second Lebanon war, 2. the Connecticut primary battle.

I would not have predicted 12 months ago that the Lebanon war would go so badly or that once it had been botched that Olmert would still be in power. Nor would I have predicted that after his November win Lieberman would become a hackneyed quasi-Republican stooge. A few comments:


Israel - because it's constantly hanging on the lip of doom - is supposed to take leadership quality much more seriously than we do here. Possibly that holds only for their military and not politicians (and that's possibly the opposite structure in America). The US military could be staffed by high level morons and we regular citizens wouldn't even know until the Russkis/Red Chinese/Cubans have conquered the Midwest. The military just has very little to do with everyday life and the protective redundancy built into our 'Homeland Security' means that we just don't pay attention. But our politicians are constantly in our eyesight - probably because we have so many of them and because we insist on constant elections.

Israel seems the opposite. Their military is integral to the citizenry. Everyone serves (except the ultra-orthodox and anti-Israel Arabs... an interesting set of bedfellows). The military is everywhere and is constantly being tested for its efficiency. If something is broke in the military it will swiftly be fixed because the stakes are so high, the scrutiny is so high, and the participation is so high.

The Israeli political class, however, appears to be held in purposeful contempt. Government doesn't really work in Israel; it's a parliamentary system that has infrequent elections and no direct representation. Taxes are very high but to get anything done you need to use corruption - bribery or nepotism. As such, the politicians in Israel seem to be universally corrupt, contemptuous, and negligible.

Cases in point: (1) Olmert botched a war and is still in power, (2) Chaim Ramon sexually assaulted a soldier and is now deputy prime minister, (3) Peres, second in command during the War is now president.

However, the only politician that may be held to the same high standard as the military is the Defense Secretary. Cases in point: (1) Halutz, army head during Lebanon, is gone; (2) Amir Peretz, defense secretary, is gone; (3) Ehud Barak, despite being a disgraced failure of a PM, is still a talented general and so he was promoted to head of Labor and made Defense Secretary.

Under this analysis, it all makes sense. Olmert is still PM because Israelis don't consider it an all that important job; theoretically if Halutz hadn't resigned, then he would have been forced to.

The other component of Olmert's eerie longevity is that he's probably a stupendous political infighter. How else to explain how he managed to be number 2 in Kadima, the next prime minister after Sharon's incapacitation, still PM after a fiasco *plus* getting his favored candidates as President (Peres, who beat both Labor and Likud candidates and who had never before won an election), head of Labor (Barak, as opposed to Ayalon who pledged to bring Olmert down), and keep convicted pervert Ramon in government (*and* promote him). These are extraordinary political accomplishments and make me frightened of Olmert’s abilities.

Yet, despite all that I took down a picture of me and Olmert from my office wall… maybe I’ll put it back up if he manages to liberate Shalit, Regev and Goldvasser.


This is a more mundane story. Joe started to go wacky before Lamont threatened him. I believe the loss of his mother – who I’ve been told acted as his moral and political gyroscope – made Lieberman do all these politically stupid things. I also think that had the Democrats not tried to throw Joe under a bus last August, he’d be less likely now to betray his party principals. It is said that people suffer a loss of loyalty when their employer unsuccessfully tries to fire them. So too with Joe.

It’s still sad to see a man of integrity defend this criminal presidency. Isn’t it ironic that the two men people considered party mavericks - McCain and Lieberman – have destroyed their public integrity by their staunch support of a detested president and a bald fiasco of a war?

If I figure out how that happened, I will learn a great secret of life.

{2009 Update: cool Lebanon map from Debka. Lieberman doggie pic from here.}

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