Just when the controversy surrounding President Obama's religious background had abated, there he goes again, unleashing his inner Jew.
The president's namesake, Barak (spelled without a C in the King James Bible), was an Israelite captain in the era of the judges. While the name Barak means lightning in Hebrew, the Israelite captain was not one of the quickest of men. Chasing after Sisera, general of the Canaanites, Barak found him in the home of Jael, a Kenite woman, who, like many women in the Old Testament, used trickery to foil the enemy. In her case, Jael covered Sisera with a mantle and hammered a nail into his temple, killing the Canaanite. It was only after the deed had been done that Barak, an ironic victim of his name, showed up to discover the dead body. As the Bible makes clear, it is Jael, not Barak, who is blessed above all others.
More than 3,000 years later, our own Barack has likewise proceeded at a middling pace. A methodical man, Obama must have been an excellent law professor and would probably make a fine Supreme Court Justice, but as president he often ambles, not the best trait for a chief executive.
Yes, he deserves credit for his patience and planning in ridding the planet of Osama bin Laden, a national security triumph for which we should all be grateful, but the president's self-reflective nature can come across as dithering. In December of 2009, at the time of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an airplane headed for Detroit, I wrote a piece, headlined "Like Moses, Barack Needs an Aaron," in which I argued that the president needed not only to speed up his responses in moments of crisis but also to connect better with people at a visceral level.
And yet, earlier this summer, when the stock market was in free-fall, President Obama did little to reassure investors. When he finally did speak, he appeared detached from the emotional and financial pain that others were suffering.
Now, as polls show that the president's approval rating has sunk to a Carter-like percentage in the 40s, Obama has seen yet another traditionally Democratic district fall to Republicans in a special election. Roughly two years after Scott Brown captured Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, which had been in Democratic hands for as long as anyone could remember, Republican Bob Turner, a former cable executive, won the Brooklyn and Queens House seat that had been held by, among other Democrats, Chuck Schumer, Geraldine Ferraro and the disgraced Anthony Weiner.
True, Turner benefited from the disgust that some Orthodox Jews and others had for Weiner's X-rated behavior, but it can't be denied that members of the staunchly Democratic community have also been upset with President Obama's handling of a number of issues, including the economy, high unemployment figures, and the failed Middle East peace process.
None other than former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a strong Israel supporter, endorsed Turner. Koch's endorsement not only helped to seal his victory, it also brought to mind further parallels between Obama and Carter, a figured loathed by Koch.
Like Carter, Obama may have a Jewish problem, even though Obama helped to settle tensions between Egypt and Israel over the recent storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. It is not that Barack does not care. I believe he does; after all, Michelle Obama's extended family includes a rabbi.
But President Obama often shows up too late for the tastes of many Jews and other Americans, who feel the need for an emotional connection with their president. It may be of little solace to anyone if and when the president rejects the Palestinian's bid for statehood before the U.N. Security Council. The opportunities for peace seem more distant now than they have been in some time.
Almost three years into Obama's presidency, we should know that his proclivity toward delay is not due to lack of compassion; it is due to a deliberateness bestowed by history. Perhaps, that is why the president's Biblical namesake showed up late as well. In a twist of fate, resonating for the ages, Barack, like Barak, the Israelite captain, has not been blessed with the speed of lightning.