I thought I should recommend Jimmy Carter’s op-ed on Gaza. But of course as everyone knows Carter is a raging, Jew-hating, Israel-bashing bigot. And ultimately this illustrates what I think is the inconvenient truth about US involvement in the Israeli-Arab conflict, namely that to do much good you need to be willing to take the hits. Near the end of my new TAP Online column I note the irony that Carter is the most-loathed of US Presidents among Israel hawks, but the Camp David accords he sponsored have done more to advance Israeli interests than anything any president’s done since Harry Truman recognized Israeli independence.
The issue is that peace is strongly in Israel’s best interests. But the most useful thing we can ever do to bring that about is offer a bit of a stiff arm and tough love to alter internal Israeli political incentives. But doing that earns you a lot of political enemies even if your work pays off.
On his radio show today, conservative talker Glenn Beck responded to the current violence in Gaza by arguing that former President Jimmy Carter should be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize:
BECK: Can someone please retract the Jimmy Carter Nobel Peace Prize? Can someone please say, “You know what Jim, we gotta take that back. I don’t know what we were thinking, but there hasn’t been all that much peace there.” … Eh, I don’t think you get the prize for the peace when the peace didn’t really happen. … Can we take his peace prize back from him?
Late yesterday, former President Jimmy Carter, said in an interview with USA Today that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been “‘milking every possible drop of advantage‘ from his time served as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.” Throughout his campaign for president, McCain has been “able to weave in his experience in a Vietnam prison camp, no matter what the question was,” Carter added.
Today, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) responded to Carter’s comments, calling them “absurd.” McCain’s POW experience is “something he doesn’t talk about,” Sanford claimed:
SANFORD: I’ve spent a lot of time with John McCain over the years and it’s something he doesn’t bring up in personal conversation. It’s something that you have to pull out of him just because it’s something that he doesn’t talk about. And so, does he have admirers that talk about that searing life experience and the character that it would develop? Absolutely. [...]
With all do respect, I think it’s a crazy claim.
Sandford’s view that McCain doesn’t like talking about his experience as a POW is laughable. McCain has a long history of not just discussing his POW experience, but bringing it up in conversations entirely unrelated to the subject. In addition, on the campaign trail, McCain often volunteers anecdotes from his POW experience in campaign ads, speeches, and question-and-answer sessions. A few of Mccain’s more strained attempts to “weave” his POW experience into his public image include:
– Raising his POW experience to justify not remembering how many houses he owns. “Could I just mention to you Jay, that in a moment of seriousness, I spent five and a half years in a prison cell, I didn’t have a house, I didn’t have a kitchen table, I didn’t have a table, I didn’t have a chair,” McCain said to Jay Leno in response to a question about his housing gaffe.
– Raising his POW experience to justify his opposition to universal healthcare. “I did have a period of time where I didn’t have very good healthcare, I had it from another government. Look, I know what it’s like not to have healthcare,” McCain said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
– Raising his POW experience to attack political opponents. “Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn’t there…I was tied up at the time,’” McCain said during a primary debate.
Indeed, Carter’s suggestion that McCain views his POW experience as politically advantageous is nothing if not the opinion of McCain himself. As McCain wrote in his 2002 book Worth Fighting For, “Thanks to my prisoner of war experience, I had, as they say in politics, a good first story to sell.”