Time's Mark Halperin reported on his blog that House Minority Leader John Boehner "use[d]" Sen. Barack Obama's interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg to "accuse Obama of calling Israel a 'constant sore.' " Halperin reported that the Obama campaign called Boehner's comments "a dishonest and ridiculous distortion" but did not note that the Obama campaign was right or provide the context for Obama's comment.
In an update to a May 12 entry on his blog, The Page, Time magazine senior political analyst Mark Halperin reported that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) had "use[d]" Atlantic magazine national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg's May 12 interview with Sen. Barack Obama "to accuse Obama of calling Israel a 'constant sore.' " Halperin added, "Obama camp hits back, calling it a 'dishonest and ridiculous distortion.' " But Halperin did not note that the Obama campaign was right -- that Boehner's accusation is false -- or provide the context for the "constant sore" comment to allow readers to determine the truth for themselves. Rather, he provided a link to the entire interview, while characterizing it as "looong."
In the interview, Goldberg asked: "Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?" Obama responded: "No. No. No. 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." In a statement, Boehner said of Obama's comments: "Israel is a critical American ally and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, not a 'constant sore' as Barack Obama claims."
On May 13 Goldberg called on Boehner to "correct the record" and added that if Boehner did not issue a correction, he would call Boehner's accusation "mendacious, duplicitous, gross, and comically refutable." In the post to which Halperin linked that noted Boehner's accusation, TheAtlantic.com blogger Marc Ambinder wrote: "Notice how the metaphor, which, in context, referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is now a metaphor about Israel. So -- the GOP responses loses a few intellectual honesty points." ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper stated on his Political Punch blog that "[a]pparently given nothing of substance to criticize, House Republican leaders then took a statement Obama made and twisted it to act as if the Democrat had insulted the Jewish state. Which he had not."
From Goldberg's May 12 interview:
JG: If you become President, will you denounce settlements publicly?
BO: What I will say is what I've said previously. Settlements at this juncture are not helpful. Look, my interest is in solving this problem not only for Israel but for the United States.
JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?
BO: No, no, no. 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. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I'm not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that's the safest ground politically.
I want to solve the problem, and so my job in being a friend to Israel is partly to hold up a mirror and tell the truth and say if Israel is building settlements without any regard to the effects that this has on the peace process, then we're going to be stuck in the same status quo that we've been stuck in for decades now, and that won't lift that existential dread that David Grossman described in your article.
The notion that a vibrant, successful society with incredible economic growth and incredible cultural vitality is still plagued by this notion that this could all end at any moment -- you know, I don't know what that feels like, but I can use my imagination to understand it. I would not want to raise my children in those circumstances. I want to make sure that the people of Israel, when they kiss their kids and put them on that bus, feel at least no more existential dread than any parent does whenever their kids leave their sight. So that then becomes the question: is settlement policy conducive to relieving that over the long term, or is it just making the situation worse? That's the question that has to be asked.
From Goldberg's March 13 post calling on Boehner to "do the right thing, and correct the record":
Mr. Boehner, I'm sure, is a terribly busy man, with many burdensome responsibilities, so I have to assume that he simply didn't have time to read the entire Obama interview, or even the entire paragraph, or even a single clause. If he had, of course, he would have seen that Obama was clearly calling the Middle East conflict, and not Israel, a sore. Why, there's no one who would disagree that the Middle East conflict is a "sore," is there?
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.