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Say Goodnight, Jesse

A Commentary by Susan Estrich

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Barack Obama victory in less than three weeks will mean many things at home and abroad. It will mean a new team on foreign and domestic policy and new political leadership for both the Democratic Party and the country. And it will mean, finally, the end of any excuse to listen to the self-involved, selfish and stupid rantings of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Earlier this year, Jackson made a complete fool of himself with his jealous tirade against Obama, spoken into an open mike and ultimately heard by millions. It doesn't bear repeating, and I would not be writing about it today were it not for the sad but not surprising fact that Jackson is now selling himself as a member of Obama's "family" -- or vice versa -- and pontificating in an ignorant and divisive way about the changes an Obama administration will bring.

If you didn't know better, you might think Jackson wants Obama to lose. And I wouldn't be surprised if he does. A President Obama makes Jackson politically irrelevant.

Jackson's latest outburst came during the inaugural World Policy Forum held at some fancy resort in France. The only surprise here is that it seems to have taken almost a week for Jackson's drivel to reach American shores. But it's arrived now, proving once again that the man who once called New York "Hymietown" has learned very little from his mistakes.

If you haven't seen it yet, you will. Check out www.drudgereport.com. The headline is impossible to overlook. "Jesse Jackson: Under Obama, 'decades of putting Israel's interests first' would end." According to Jackson, the "Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades" will lose clout.

Could he have really said these things? So it appears. But why?

Let's eliminate the obvious reasons for concern about such a comment. Could Jackson know something about Obama's plans that the rest of us don't? Short answer: No.

Jackson didn't pretend -- how could he? -- to be an Obama adviser or confidant. He called himself a "supporter," although I can think of other words to describe a guy who would talk about Obama the way he did. But, of course, Jesse being Jesse, he couldn't stop there.

Tens of millions of people are Obama supporters. Being an Obama supporter wouldn't make Jackson worth listening to. Obama, Jackson told the New York Post, is "a neighbor or, better still, a member of the family." Better for whom? Jackson's son has long been close to Obama, and his daughter went to school with Michelle Obama. But that doesn't make Jackson a member of the Obama family. Not even close.

Could Jackson be right, even if he doesn't have any inside information? Short answer: No.

Bad news, Jesse: "Zionists" haven't controlled American foreign policy for decades. Americans have -- Americans who recognize that Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East, a stalwart friend to America, and that supporting Israel is right both strategically and morally. And those Americans will also control policy during an Obama administration.

Indeed, during the primaries, the Obama campaign crowed about just how many former foreign policy advisers from the Clinton administration were now working for Obama. Call them what you will, Jesse, they're on their way back. The senator himself repeatedly went out of his way to assure voters that he and Hillary were in fundamental agreement on protecting the security of the state of Israel. Expecting a major change in policy from the "Zionist control" of the last decades? No such "luck."

So if he doesn't have inside information -- and he doesn't even seem to know the people who would -- why is Jackson spouting off in a way that is certain to cause concern among the millions of voters, Jews and non-Jews alike, who are firmly committed to the security of the state of Israel, and whose support, both in terms of financial backing and actual votes, Obama needs if he is to turn his current lead in the polls into an actual victory in November?

Jackson is many things, but stupid he isn't. He has to understand when he makes comments like this that, first, they will get back to America, more likely sooner than later, and that when they do, they will, unless repudiated, hurt and not help Obama. At best, they are divisive. At worst, they are harmful to Obama. So why make them, even if you believe them?

The short -- and unavoidable -- answer is that Jackson does not want Obama to become president of the United States. The election of Obama means Jackson is wrong: that America is not hopelessly racist; that the politics of victimization is not the right answer for African-Americans; that a qualified black candidate can do what an unqualified one couldn't.

Say goodnight, Jesse. A new day is dawning, and it's not about "Zionists" losing control. If Jackson can look in the mirror, he will see who is about to lose control and credibility. Couldn't happen soon enough.

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