Sheldon Adelson: Put aside social conservativism to reclaim America

I promise that this post will be about what Sheldon Adelson had to say in an interview with Alana Goodman of Commentary Magazine.  Before I get there, though, I need to begin with a little story of my own.

Readers of my newsletter know that I had lunch last week with seven other conservative women here in Marin.  We had all found each other more or less by accident, not because any of us in Marin have proudly worn our conservativism in the open (our kids would be ostracized if we did), but because we listened for the little clues in their words that hinted at a conservative orientation.  We then risked exposing ourselves by asking, “Uh, are you by any chance  . . . um, you know, conserva-mumble, mumble, mumble?”

That shyness, of course, was before the last election.  Since the 2012 election, we’ve all made a vow to each other to be more open about our political identity and to challenge liberals who lead with unfounded conclusions that demonize conservatives and their beliefs or that confer saintly virtues on Obama and his cadre.

Interestingly, the eight of us were a microcosm of conservative views, ranging from fiscally conservative but socially liberal conservatives all the way to both fiscally and socially conservatives.  Our common denominator, of course, was fiscal conservativism. Dig deeper, and there were two other common denominators:  an abiding belief in the Constitution’s continued relevance to modern America and a fierce devotion to individual liberty.

Where we differed was (a) gay marriage and (b) abortion.  With regard to abortion, we did have one overarching point of agreement, which was that abortion is not a federal issue and should therefore be returned to the states.  When it came to gay marriage, all of us were willing to recognize gay unions, but we differed about whether the answer is to declare gay marriage the law of the land or, instead, to preserve marriage for religious institutions, while making civil unions across the board (both straight and gay) the law of the land.  As regular readers know, I hew to the second view, which acknowledges human relationships and state goals, without interfering in any way with religious freedom.

I walked away from the lunch realizing as clearly as I ever have that the strong fiber weaving us together is fiscal conservativism and individual liberty.  The frayed strands at the edges are what are commonly called “social issues.”

The Democrats, recognizing that the quickest way to shred a piece of fabric is to tear at the frayed edges, rather than to try to destroy the sturdy center, worked hard during the election to blow the gay-marriage and abortion dog whistles.  As the race in Missouri showed, social conservativism is a political landmine that routinely explodes in the face of struggling Republican candidates.  Todd Akin could have won that race if he hadn’t been asked about abortion.  When thinking about Akin’s repulsive and misinformed answer, which provided a solid Progressive rallying cry, don’t forget Richard Mourdock. His experience proves that, even if Akin had given a principled pro-Life answer, he still would have been pilloried and destroyed.

I’m a big believer that, when it comes to social issues, culture drives politics, rather than politics driving culture.  For the past forty years, social liberals have been planted very firmly in the driver’s seat.  They have infiltrated both media and education, which has given them the chance to shape a generation’s social views.  They have sensitized this generation’s ears so that the dog whistles most people under 55 hear the loudest aren’t “debt” or “fiscal cliff” or “responsibility,” but are, instead, “women haters,” “homophobes” and “racists.”

What this cultural transformation means is that, in the short term, conservatives can win on the fiscal side (and, possibly, on the individual liberties side) because people haven’t been deafened by decades of dog whistles on those subjects.  Until we take back the culture, though, which we do exactly the same way the Left did — namely, a slow march through the culture — we will invariably lose on social issues.  Significantly as the most recent election shows, losing on social issues inevitably means losing on all issues.

Now, finally, have established my premise about the way in which social issues invariably play against conservatives in national elections, I can get to Sheldon Adelson’s interview in Commentary Magazine.  For purposes of this essay, Sheldon Adelson is important for three reasons.  First, he is a conservative who is willing to put his money where his mouth is (unlike Warren Buffet, a true-to-form liberal who wants to put other people’s money where his mouth is).  The second reason Adelson is important is that, after his emergence as a money-player in this election, the Left has worked as hard to demonize him as they did to demonize the Koch Brothers and Mitt Romney.  And the third reason is that Sheldon Adelson agrees with me that conservatives cannot win on social issues:

For someone whose name and face were a regular staple of the election coverage, the public does have many misconceptions about Adelson. His liberal social views rarely received media attention during the campaign season, though he’s certainly never hidden them.

“See that paper on the wall?” he asked, gesturing toward a poster with rows of names on it. “That is a list of some of the scientists that we give a lot of money to conduct collaborative medical research, including stem cell research. What’s wrong if I help stem cell research? I’m all in favor. And if somebody wants to have an abortion, let them have an abortion,” he said.

[snip]

Adelson has not said whether he will use his influence to try to change the GOP internally. But he does believe social issues cost the Republicans the last election.

“If we took a softer stance on those several issues, social issues, that I referred to, then I think that we would have won the most recent election,” he said. “I think people got the impression that Republicans didn’t care about certain groups of people.”

You should definitely read the whole interview.

Adelson is precisely what my self-admitted conservative friends are:  fiscally conservative, socially fairly liberal, very receptive to legal immigration (because a nation, for health, national security, and economic reasons should control its own borders), and supportive of Israel.  What’s funny, though, is that Adelson is also pretty close in actual outlook to all the upscale, white collar liberals I know who reflexively vote Democrat because of the conservative issues.  These people are also fiscally conservative in their own lives; they what their country safe and fiscally sound for their children; they like immigrants but recognize that illegal immigrants pose risks both for American citizens and legal, Green Card immigrants; and they like Israel’s values.

The problem at the ballot box is that, after forty years of Leftist indoctrination, these educated liberals are unable to harmonize their values with their politics.  Despite recognizing the wisdom of fiscal management in their own homes, they think a state can survive indefinitely by spending more than it takes in; despite training their children in self-reliance, they believe that we should destroy self-reliance in “the poor”; despite believing that people should be able to protect themselves and their homes, they are embarrassed when their country tries to defend itself; and despite admiring a pluralist, democratic society, which is what Israel is, they bemoan the plight of the poor Palestinians who have allowed their (now sovereign) territory to devolve in a crazy mix of anarchism and Islamic fundamentalism.

What makes this cognitive dissonance possible for white collar liberals is their unswerving allegiance to unlimited abortions and (of late) to gay marriage. Just as fiscal conservativism, the Constitution, and individual freedom bind conservatives of all stripes together, so too do abortion and gay marriage (with a soupçon of illegal immigration) bind together Progressives of all stripes.  We cannot entice Progressives to fiscal conservativism if we insist on a purity test for abortion and gay marriage.  It’s just not going to happen.  And here’s the kicker:  abortion and gay marriage become moot issues if our nation collapses entirely under the weight of debt or if our walls our breached by Islamists or if we become “tuberculosis central” because we cannot assert even a modicum of polite control over our borders.

As a parent, I hew socially conservative, so those are values I want to advance.  But I’m a pragmatist who recognizes that the ballot box isn’t the place to make it happen.  The ballot box is how we manage issues of sovereignty (including national security and border control) and fiscal health.  Our social institutions are where we make headway on social issues.  If we can keep those lines from crossing, we can be a resurgent conservative political party and, eventually, a somewhat more traditional America, one that preserves the best and healthiest social policies of the past and the present.

 

Sheldon Adelson schools an Israeli Leftist in logic

America’s not the only one with crazed Leftists.  I managed to miss the fact that Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just accused Sheldon Adelson of using Benjamin Netanyahu as his puppet in this election.  Adelson utterly destroys that canard and, to my delight, he does so in three short paragraphs that are a triumph of classic logic over arrant nonsense.  Go there and enjoy!

Sheldon Adelson is correct to question Obama’s love for Israel

Sheldon Adelson has said outright what many Jews do (or should) suspect:  Obama doesn’t love Israel as much as he says he does.  In a Jewish Journal post, Adelson does a good job assembling a damning list of facts, all of which indicate that, if Obama didn’t keep saying “Oooh, I love Israel,” most reasonable people would think that he hates Israel:

Time and again President Obama has signaled a lack of sympathy—or even outright hostility—toward Israel. Not long ago he was caught on an open microphone agreeing with French President Sarkozy’s slurring of the Israeli prime minister. And then there was his public snubbing of the Israeli leader’s request to discuss Iran during a recent U.S. visit, a measure Reuters termed “a highly unusual rebuff to a close ally.”

[snip]

Think about Obama’s anti-Israel friends and mentors—radicals like Rashid Khalidi, Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, or the late Edward Said, the virulently anti-Israel professor under whom Obama studied. Has he made anti-Israel promises to them? Is Obama’s campaign rhetoric in support of Israel only creating “space” till after the election?

[snip]

Let’s also not forget, when Obama took office, he admitted his administration sought to put “daylight” between America and Israel. He lectured that the Jewish state needed “to engage in serious self-reflection” about peace—as if tiny Israel has not spent decades pursuing peace with its belligerent neighbors. And unbelievably, in his 2009 address to the Muslim world, he implied a moral equivalence between the Holocaust and Palestinian dislocation.

Given the space constraints of an op-ed Adelson wisely focuses on Obama’s most recent rebuffs to the State of Israel.  If he’d had more room, Adelson could easily have demonstrated that Obama’s attitude towards Israel, which floats between cavalier, dishonest, and outright hostile, goes back to a time long before his presidency.  Very early in his candidacy, for example, Obama was unable to make the straightforward statement that he approves of Israel and thinks that its cause is just.  The best he could do was to compare Israel to a constant “wound” or “sore” that “infects” American foreign policy.  That was in early 2008 and, trust me, as a Jew who believes that Israel deserves an equal place among democratic nations, I wasn’t feeling the love.

Then, in May 2008, Obama insisted that “…nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti-Semitism than I have.”  Savvy writers pointed out that a few people — maybe Elie Wiesel or Simon Wiesenthal or Alan Dershowitz — might have been a bit more vocal than Obama.  Really savvy people, though, noticed that, even if one puts aside the Wiesels, Wiesenthals, and Dershowitzs, it becomes apparent that everyone who isn’t an Israel hater has spoken out more fiercely than Obama.

Thus, in May 2008, there was nothing in Obama’s known history bespeaking any support whatsoever for Israel or opposition to antisemitism.  Instead, as Adelson noted, Obama seemed to spend an awful time palling around with those Israel-haters and anti-Semites.  (And don’t we all wonder what’s in that video the Los Angeles Times has buried in its vaults, in which Obama parties with a bunch of ardent anti-Israel Palestinians and their socialist friends?) Perhaps Obama believed back then that keeping his silence around Jew-haters constituted a fierce opposition. Sadly, even when Obama purported during his candidacy to support Jews (for example, by backing an undivided Jerusalem) he was unable to sustain that philosemitic attitude for even twenty-four hours.

Once elected, within the first month of his presidency, Obama acted with remarkable speed to damage Israel’s security.  Caroline Glick detailed his unfriendly conduct:

SINCE IT came into office a month ago, every single Middle East policy the Obama administration has announced has been antithetical to Israel’s national security interests. From President Barack Obama’s intense desire to appease Iran’s mullahs in open discussions; to his stated commitment to establish a Palestinian state as quickly as possible despite the Palestinians’ open rejection of Israel’s right to exist and support for terrorism; to his expressed support for the so-called Saudi peace plan, which would require Israel to commit national suicide by contracting to within indefensible borders and accepting millions of hostile, foreign-born Arabs as citizens and residents of the rump Jewish state; to his decision to end US sanctions against Syria and return the US ambassador to Damascus; to his plan to withdraw US forces from Iraq and so give Iran an arc of uninterrupted control extending from Iran to Lebanon, every single concrete policy Obama has enunciated harms Israel.

And that was just in the first month.

Obama’s pile-up against Israel continued with unabated fury, including the cold shoulder he’s invariably turned to Netanyahu, as the Israeli Prime Minister tries desperately to avert another Holocaust; the insulting way Hillary dressed down Netanyahu; to the extreme stances Obama took against Israel (trying to reinstate the 1947 lines; insisting on the cessation of building within Jewish parts of Jerusalem); and the slow de-funding of America’s traditional support for her staunch and long-term Middle Eastern ally.  Here’s Adelson again:

Obama’s supporters tell us there’s nothing to worry about. He can be trusted, they say, because of his record of military aid to Israel and his support for sanctions against Iran.

But the aid was committed in programs that began decades before his presidency under previous administrations. He cannot rightly take credit for this aid in the sense of initiating it, just as he cannot take credit for merely signing pro-Israel legislation that had bipartisan congressional support.

Moreover, Obama’s campaign never mentions that in the past few years his budgets have proposed significant cuts in US-Israel missile defense funds—from $121.7mil to $99.8mil, a substantial slash. And just ask Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak or Poland’s Lech Walesa about Obama’s reliability because of past military aid.

Even worse, the Iranian sanctions contain loopholes that, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, “you could drive a warhead through.” All 20 of Iran’s major trading partners enjoy sanction exemptions. They won’t stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Speaking of that de-funding, it must be fun to be Peter Beinart, the idiot savant of the Left.  (Okay, I’m being generous with the “savant” part, but I don’t want to get too mean in this article.)  After having read Adelson’s editorial piece, Beinart took to his bully pulpit at the Daily Beast to explain why Adelson just doesn’t get it when it comes to Obama’s love for Israel (emphasis mine):

Sheldon Adelson has an oped out attacking Barack Obama for his “lack of sympathy—or even outright hostility—toward Israel,” the country toward which Obama has helped direct more money and military support than any of his predecessors.

Apparently Beinart missed the part where Adelson noted that, while the Obama administration has continue sending Israel money, that’s only because of previously existing policies and currently existing legislative support.  None of this originated with Obama, and Israel’s supporters are constantly worried that he’s got yet another executive order on his desk, this one cutting off all aid to Israel, while simultaneously pumping up by tens of millions the money he pours into Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

In this way, Obama is distinct from, say, Richard Nixon, who was fairly open about his dislike for Jews, but nevertheless acted swiftly and with tremendous resolve to support Israel during the Yom Kippur war in 1973.  Nixon apparently had a better understand than Obama did of the difference between personal preferences and public policy.  The same praise can go to Harry Truman, who was also an open anti-Semite, but who understood that supporting Israel’s creation was the right thing to do.

Beinart has nothing but disdain for Adelson’s position:  What a small thinker Adelson is!  How dare he question Obama’s sophisticated wisdom in punishing Israel for being imperfect!?

It’s typical of the infantile “does he really love us” conversation that overtakes the American Jewish community every four years around election time. I actually think Obama has a lot of sympathy for a particular strain of Zionism and Jewish identity (just not the strain that Adelson admires). But even if he didn’t, even if Obama finds the melody to Hatikva tedious and considers cholent gastronomically offensive, what  matters more is whether he—and we—believe that Israel is better off trying to create a viable Palestinian state or not. Whatever his flaws, Obama is forthright on the subject. Mitt Romney—and now Sheldon Adelson—are not.

Incidentally, if you have the patience to real Beinart’s fact-free vitriol, you’ll discover that he contends that Adelson’s thinking is “infantile” because Adelson believes Obama ought to support Israel’s democratically elected government.  In Beinart’s universe, only Obama has the maturity to realize that Israel’s path to freedom lies in open-ended negotiations with a terrorist entity that has as its central platform Israel’s complete destruction.  And only Obama has the wisdom to understand that the only way for these negotiations to proceed is for Israel to agree in advance to shrink her borders, give up half of her capital and, no doubt, grant a right of return that would instantly render Jews a minority in their own country.

Sheldon Adelson is absolutely correct when he questions Obama’s purported love for Israel.  Nothing Obama has said or done, none of his friends, and none of his political ideologies bespeak either a fondness for or an understanding of this little democracy, stranded amongst a sea of totalitarian, misogynistic, homophobic, antisemitic Islamic fiefdoms.