THE BLOG

My Apologies to President Obama

02/21/2015 10:08 am ET | Updated Apr 23, 2015

Rudy Giuliani won't apologize to President Obama. But I will.

I will apologize not for Rudy, but for my own over-the-top rhetoric in recent times.

The other day, I re-read a piece I wrote in January, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store in Paris. At the time, I was angry at the president for not going to Paris for the Unity March, just as I was angry that he had not gone to Ferguson, Mo., at the time of the protests following the Michael Brown shooting.

But the language I used was absurd, too extreme.

Of President Obama, I wrote, "I wonder sometimes if he has a heart, if there is any humanity or even humility inside of him. He felt more wounded by Michael Jordan's taunt that Obama is a 'hack' on the golf course than he does by anyone's critique of his domestic or foreign policy."

I even compared the president to, get this, the Grinch!

As I told my wife and a few friends recently, maybe I forgot to take my medication that day.

I have been similarly over-the-top and even perhaps unhinged in criticizing some other people over the years, notably James Fallows of The Atlantic, when he weighed in on the issue of anti-Semitism.

I may not agree with Fallows on some issues, including his view that Democrats should boycott Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress.

But I was too harsh in lambasting Fallows at the time. I should have been more civil in disagreeing with him, a former Carter speechwriter, than I was.

As I wrote earlier, maybe I did not take my medication that day.

On the subject of anti-Semitism, I am concerned not only about what is going on in Europe, with the murderous attacks on Jews, journalists and others in many European countries, most recently in Denmark; I am also concerned about the BDS movement on college campuses in the States.

Last year, I wrote about these issues in a piece titled "Shylock and Ponzi Schemers." It was a rebuttal to an earlier piece, in which I gently criticized Vice President Biden for using the word, "Shylocks," to refer to unethical money lenders who ripped off our troops on housing loans.

I make no apologies to commenters on the Biden piece, some of whom posted vicious notes about Jews.

One of them, Catherine Malick Ploughman, cited Bernie Madoff and "the endless list of Jewish crooks." She added, "Watch American Greed sadly Jewish businessmen are a majority of the Ponzi schemers."

Sometimes, I wish I had taken the lighter tone I used in the Biden piece, in which I referred to the vice president as an "Irish-American mensch" as well as the "White House's equivalent of Mr. Magoo," in some of my pieces about President Obama.

I am coming to the conclusion that I'd better take my meds every day because we need more civility in our dialogue. There is nothing wrong with irony or satire. I have used both in my writing and will continue to do so.

But I and others need to tone down the rhetoric a bit.

I still don't know how I feel about Bibi Netanyahu's scheduled address before the Congress.

It deeply saddens me that John Boehner and others are cynically using Israel as a wedge issue to drive Democrats away from attending the speech.

Let us be clear: Boehner and the Republican leadership care less right now about Iran's fledgling nuclear program than they do about embarrassing President Obama. And at this moment, they are using Netanyahu, who has his own longstanding problems with the president, for this purpose.

Of course, Netanyahu is not unaware that he is being used for this purpose. As everyone knows, he, like any politician, wants to get reelected. And he hopes that by giving a speech to the U.S. Congress that he will enhance his prestige at home in the Yishuv.

Lost perhaps in the midst of Boehner's ugly breach of diplomatic protocol and the decision by Biden and many prominent Democrats not to attend Netanyahu's speech is the reality that the Iranian leadership is not and never has been particularly forthcoming or trustworthy as it relates to the development of its nuclear program.

You need only read David E. Sanger and William J. Broad's recent article in the New York Times, in which they reported on Iran's evasion on its "suspected work on nuclear weapons and design," if you don't believe me.

Getting back to my comments on President Obama, I do not truly wonder if he "has a heart" or any "humanity... inside of him," as I wrote in January.

President Obama certainly has a heart and a healthy dose of humanity. He even has a decent amount of humility too, although, like most political leaders, President Obama can strike me as lacking that on occasion. I will stand by that critique.

The president should recognize that Michael Jordan is a world-class athlete and will always be able to take him on the basketball court and probably the links too.

As for me, I should recognize that over-the-top rhetoric does not help matters, and that we need all the help we can get right now in dealing with a multiplicity of national security and other critical issues.

To the president, I apologize. You are not the Grinch.

Now, how about a friendly arm-wrestling match?