“But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy
Acceptance Speech of the New York
Liberal Party Nomination
September 14, 1960
It was clear from the moment news of the flotilla attack emerged that Israel was taking extreme steps to suppress all evidence about what happened other than its own official version. They detained the flotilla passengers and barred the media from speaking with them, thus, as The NYT put it, “refusing to permit journalists access to witnesses who might contradict Israel’s version of events.” They detained the journalists who were on the ship for days and seized their film, video and cameras. And worst of all, the IDF — while still refusing to disclose the full, unedited, raw footage of the incident — quickly released an extremely edited video of their commandos landing on the ship, which failed even to address, let alone refute, the claim of the passengers: that the Israelis were shooting at the ship before the commandos were on board.
This campaign of suppression and propaganda worked to shape American media coverage (as state propaganda campaigns virtually always work on the gullible, authority-revering American media). The edited IDF video was shown over and over on American television without question or challenge. Israeli officials and Israel-devoted commentators appeared all over television — almost always unaccompanied by any Turkish, Palestinian or Muslim critics of the raid — to spout the Israeli version without opposition. Israel-centric pundits in America claimed, based on the edited IDF video, that anyone was lying who even reported on the statements of the passengers that Israeli fired first. In sum, that the Israelis used force only after the passengers attacked the commandos became Unquestioned Truth in American discourse.
But now that the passengers and journalists have been released from Israeli detention and are speaking out, a much different story is emerging. As I noted yesterday, numerous witnesses and journalists are describing Israeli acts of aggression, including the shooting of live ammunition, before the commandos landed. The New York Times blogger Robert Mackey today commendably compiles that evidence — I recommend it highly — and he writes: “now that the accounts of activists and journalists who were detained by Israel after the raid are starting to be heard, it is clear that their stories and that of the Israeli military do not match in many ways.” As Juan Cole says: “Many passengers have now confirmed that they were fired on even before the commandos had boots on the deck. Presumably it is this suppressive fire that killed or wounded some passengers and which provoked an angry reaction and an attack on the commandos.”
Amid recession, two wars and swine flu, conservatives assail Obama over Dijon
WASHINGTON — The United States is in the midst of a devastating recession, mired in two overseas wars and grappling with a swine flu outbreak, but conservative critics are assailing President Barack Obama on another pressing issue: his choice of burger topping.
Dijongate is in full force, with Fox News and a conservative blogger leading the charge against the president for his choice of the apparently un-American mustard atop his cheeseburger during a recent impromptu lunch stop with Vice-President Joe Biden.
There’s no evidence of wiretapped hotel rooms or a Deep Throat lurking in the shadows, but there are indeed accusations of a coverup – MSNBC, apparently, edited out the president’s request for Dijon in order to help Obama maintain his “man of the people” street cred.
Fox’s Sean Hannity has been telling his viewers that MSNBC – and reporter Andrea Mitchell in particular – are trying to hide Obama’s Dijon-loving ways from the public.
Hannity has been referring to the president’s lunch as his “fancy burger.”
“It was Grey Poupon, which is equally snotty,” alleged one commenter on Hannity’s website.
William Jacobson, a Cornell law school professor who has also been blogging about Dijongate, noted that Mitchell “didn’t mention one arugula-like fact” about Obama’s order earlier this week at Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va.
Jacobson said the MSNBC video of the stop at Ray’s cuts out just as Obama asks for Dijon. He refers to MSNBC as “Obama’s favourite network.”
“MSNBC edited out the audio when Obama ordered his Hell Burger just at the moment when Obama asked for Dijon mustard,” Jacobson wrote in a Thursday post entitled “Thou Shalt Not Mock Obama’s Mustard.”
“Now, I have nothing against Dijon mustard, but the image didn’t fit with the image being spun by the White House and MSNBC. Dijon mustard on a Hell Burger had a very John Kerry-ish quality about it.”
Jacobson blogged about other incidents in which Obama has revealed his weakness for the spicy French condiment.
It’s a key ingredient, for example, in the president’s favourite tuna salad, and he also had the gall to request it during his first trip on Air Force One.
“And the mainstream media didn’t cover it,” Jacobson wrote.
It all hearkens back to those silly days of “freedom fries,” the name given to French fries by hawkish conservatives in 2003 when France expressed strong opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The French stance resulted in a call from American right-wingers for a boycott of French goods and the removal of the country’s name from products. That left America’s best-selling mustard – French’s – in a bit of a quandary.
French’s, in fact, figures prominently in a Dijon-related anecdote Obama himself chronicled in his book, “The Audacity of Hope.”
He told the story of his first tour through Illinois, when he ordered Dijon on his cheeseburger at a TGI Friday’s.
His panicked political aide assured the waitress that Obama didn’t want Dijon at all and waved her away, thrusting a bottle of French’s at him instead. The waitress, perplexed, assured Obama that she had Dijon if he wanted it.
“As the waitress walked away, I leaned over and whispered that I didn’t think there were any photographers around,” Obama wrote.
The anecdote underscored Obama’s thoughts on what he viewed as the absurdity of focusing on non-issues in politics.
“What’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics-the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial,” he wrote.
One commenter on Jacobson’s blog mocked Dijongate on Thursday: “Wait till the right finds out he eats guacamole, then he’ll be seen as a pro-immigrant nut job. God forbid he ever takes a bite of hummus!”
Jacobson, however, insists that alleged efforts to cover up Obama’s choice of mustard this week are newsworthy.
“I don’t think anyone is ‘upset’ with his choice of mustard, although that is how some are spinning it,” Jacobson said in an e-mail. “It is the absurd level of image control, which is not trivial.”
Nonetheless, some of the right’s attacks on Obama have bordered on the inane, subjecting conservatives to ridicule.
Comedian Bill Maher, a longtime libertarian, recently maligned the right and their fixation on the trivial in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.
“Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law,” Maher wrote.
“And here’s the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a TelePrompTer too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes.”
Conservatives, Maher wrote, are now behaving like “the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him – obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will,” he wrote.
“But … your country is not coming back to you. She’s found somebody new. And it’s a black guy.”