Look, I've been around politics long enough to know that it's a contact sport. Words will be abused. Phrases will be taken out of context.
But the latest distortion from the GOP, frankly, shouldn't give us all pause -- it should spring us into action.
Here's the story, if you haven't heard - yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg published a very interesting and engaging interview with Barack Obama, where they spoke at length about Barack's ties to the Jewish community in Chicago and his views on the Middle East peace process. When speaking about the decades old violence that has threatened our ally Israel, Barack said:
But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.
Does anyone seriously dispute that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a constant, open wound in the Middle East -- exploited by those who would like to see Israel and the United States driven out of the region? Of course not.
It's simply undeniable that the conflict affects all of our Middle Eastern foreign policy. For decades, these have been bi-partisan views:
There remain enemies of this peace, extremists on both sides who feel threatened by the peace and will be tempted once again to kill it with violence. We can defeat that kind of threat by building a genuine Israeli-Palestinian partnership that will stand the test of time -- Bill Clinton
Only through the process of negotiation can all the nations of the Middle East achieve a secure peace. -- Ronald Reagan
Even George W. Bush has said:
For the sake of all humanity, things must change in the Middle East.
It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation. [...]
Permanent occupation threatens Israel's identity and democracy. A stable, peaceful Palestinian state is necessary to achieve the security that Israel longs for.
But of course, today, rather than seriously disputing that, or, even better, offering a vision of their own on how to find peace in the Middle East and security for Israel, Rep. John Boehner and Rep. Eric Cantor - senior leadership in the House GOP -- decided to ignore the actual meaning of English words and simply invent something Barack Obama didn't say. Here is what they said
Israel is a critical American ally and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, not a 'constant sore' as Barack Obama claims. -- John Boehner
It is truly disappointing that Senator Obama called Israel a 'constant wound,' 'constant sore,' and that it 'infect[s] all of our foreign policy.' These sorts of words and characterizations are the words of a politician with a deep misunderstanding of the Middle East and an innate distrust of Israel -- Eric Cantor
This is so mendacious that the objective journalist Jeffrey Goldberg himself felt compelled to reply. He writes:
I have no doubt that Mr. Boehner will issue a correction to his press release in which he states the obvious, which is that Obama expressed -- in twelve different ways -- his support for Israel to me.
If he doesn't, however, I would, sadly, have to agree with my colleague, the less-forgiving Andrew Sullivan, who called Boehner's statement a "flat-out lie." In fact, I would add to Andrew's post, by calling Boehner's statement mendacious, duplicitous, gross, and comically refutable. So Mr. Boehner, do the right thing, and correct the record. I'll be happy to post the correction right here.
These statements by Representatives Boehner and Cantor are so bad they rise to the level of a danger to our foreign policy. America's allegiance to Israel has always been bi-partisan and unshakeable. It still is, with either Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton as President. But how can we actually have a debate on foreign policy, if the other side simply makes up statements on which to base phony, contrived outrage?
No, people need to hear the truth -- now.
Here's what Barack said about his personal feelings about Israel in the very same interview:
I think the idea of Israel and the reality of Israel is one that I find important to me personally. Because it speaks to my history of being uprooted, it speaks to the African-American story of exodus, it describes the history of overcoming great odds and a courage and a commitment to carving out a democracy and prosperity in the midst of hardscrabble land. One of the things I loved about Israel when I went there is that the land itself is a metaphor for rebirth, for what's been accomplished. What I also love about Israel is the fact that people argue about these issues, and that they're asking themselves moral questions.
In other words, he said exactly the opposite of what Boehner and Cantor scurrilously allege. The Washington Post gave both Boehner and Cantor multiple Pinocchios for their performance.
Barack Obama has spoken time and time again on the importance of our alliance with Israel, and on how important Israel is to him personally. He has spoken movingly about the inspiration he draws from Israel's historic struggle for independence and its current struggle for security, as well as his deep resolve to continue working to strengthen security for all of Israel's people. He has called America's commitment to Israel's security "unshakeable," a commitment built on the bedrock of the deep friendship between the two nations.
But the Republican Party insists on twisting his words so far they resort to actually lying about their meaning.
We have a foreign policy mess in the Middle East. The Bush administration's Iraq debacle has weakened our diplomatic standing in the region and limited our options in working on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No wonder all Representatives Boehner and Cantor can do is to create imaginary strawmen to knock down in self-righteous indignation.
I'm not alone in condemning this remark. Here's the statement from Rep. Robert Wexler:
In his dishonest and ridiculous distortion, John Boehner has shown us the new depths that a truly desperate Republican leadership will sink to in its attempt to smear Barack Obama's strong and unshakeable record of support for Israel. This absurd parsing would be laughable if it wasn't so sad to see the U.S.-Israel relationship used as a political wedge instead of a cause to unite all Americans around a common purpose.
And here's Rep. Rahm Emanuel:
On the eve of Israel's 60th anniversary, Congressman Boehner should remember that Israel enjoys bipartisan support and commitment to its security. Nothing could be worse for Israel at this time than for it to become a proxy for Congressman Boehner's political games. Senator Obama's record is clear when it comes to Israel's security and friendship with the United States.
The politics of character assassination from Republicans on the important issues needs to stop. Playing games to drive political wedges as part of some political strategy does great disservice to our country. We need to talk about how to chart a new course, not spread these kinds of distortions.
We deserve better in this country, but we won't get it from the GOP in this election. Already we've seen John McCain trying to describe Barack Obama as Hamas' candidate. That's beneath the John McCain I used to know. But -- sadly -- that is the only way these Republicans have to try and win an election
We deserve better. We need to have an honest and important conversation about how to reorient our foreign policy to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
What we don't need are lies, distortions, and rhetoric designed only to whip up fear. That's part of what got us into this mess, and it won't get us out.
Call Sen. McCain's office at 202-224-2235 and ask him to condemn these statements from his supporters.