Freshly minted Facebook millionaires, unemployment reduced to 8.3 percent, and rising stock market values do not reduce the possibility of the occurrence of one or more domestic or foreign policy events that could irrevocably alter the political landscape of the 2012 presidential election.
A decision from the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act; State efforts to control illegal immigration; a pre-emptive military strike by Israel against Iran; a worsening of the conflicts in Egypt and Syria; the spread of the "Arab Spring" to oil rich monarchies of the Middle East; a shutdown of the government over efforts to reduce the national debt or a nationwide resumption of Occupy Wall Street could significantly impact the elections.
It will be impossible for us to control or insulate ourselves from events in the Middle East as long as we remain dependent on oil from the region and committed to honor our military defense of Israel.
I recently returned from Israel. There I participated in the 12th Annual Herzliya Conference on "The Balance of Israel's National Security" at the Institute for Policy and Strategy. I was invited to address a special session of the Conference on "Leadership" (Anyone interested in the text of my remarks can access the Conference website or email me and I will forward a copy to those who request it.)
When attending various sessions and panel discussions at the Conference, I remembered that I was a first time visitor to Israel. As such, I also recalled the view of Lord Palmerston, British Foreign Secretary, in 1848 who said "We have not external allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are perpetual and eternal, and those interests it is our duty to follow." This is similar to the advice given to me and others by the legendary African-American labor leader A. Phillip Randolph during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s: "We Negroes have no permanent friends or permanent enemies. Your 'friend' today could be your 'enemy' tomorrow; your 'enemy' today could be your' friend' tomorrow. We only have permanent interests."
With this advice in mind, thoughtful consideration, not opportunist political grandstanding, must be given to whether Israel's domestic and foreign policy is consistent and in accordance with America's "permanent interests" and our urgent domestic priorities.
Some limited, but not all-inclusive, observations from attending the Herzliya Conference are:
Constructive criticism is always appropriate of President Obama. (I have been a frequent critic of one or more of what I then perceived to be deficiencies in his leadership or pursuit of a policy I thought was not in the best interest of our country.)
Examples of an event, in real-time, that may impact the landscape of the 2012 Presidential election is the reaction, not only from the Catholic Church but non-Catholic persons, to the recent new rule from the Obama administration requiring religious schools and hospitals to provide their employees with access to free birth control, and possible U.S. military involvement in the worsening situation in Syria. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius' decision appears to have ignited a "firestorm" of criticism. Organizations and persons other than the Catholic Church are claiming the Secretary's action constitutes an infringement of freedom of religious choice, beyond the scope of the traditional issues of pro-life and pro-choice. Catholics constitute approximately 20 percent of the electorate. Candidate Obama received 54 percent of the "Catholic vote" in November 2008.
A decision by the president to involve the United States military in Syria, unless in the most limited support role, runs the risks of alienating his voter support among Independents and substantial members of the Democratic Party, already weary of our continued presence in Afghanistan.
Finally, the recent results in the Republican primaries of Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado, and the decision of the Obama re-election campaign to additionally fund their efforts through a Super Pac to match the Republican equivalents indicates the potential of a presidential campaign awash in an unprecedented amount of money spent for print and electronic media ads.
*(The views expressed above following my visit to Israel are my personal views only. They are not intended to suggest directly or indirectly as being the views of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute, a non-profit, non-political , 501(c) (3)(entity), at Stanford University.)