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Is Obama's honeymoon really over already?

Mark Urban | 18:24 UK time, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

President-elect Barack Obama and Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton,ary Rodham Clinton,The global honeymoon that accompanied Barack Obama's election was never going to last forever, but there are some people for whom it already appears to be over - even though the president elect will not take power until 21st January. The Illinois senator's desire to name his administration, in order to 'hit the ground running' has already been the cause of some political sniping, and so have his meagre foreign policy pronouncements to date.

The appointment of Rahm Emanuel in October as White House Chief of Staff nettled many. There were his former Republican opponents in the House of Representatives, who consider him abrasively partisan, but I am not talking about them. Put his name and 'Zionist' into Google and you will see what I mean. The brickbats are already flying on certain Islamic, 'progressive', and far right websites.

With the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, the plot thickens for those who wish to imply that a good man - President-elect Obama - is surrounding himself with 'zionists' who will prevent any fresh thinking about Middle East peace. Ms Clinton is not of course Jewish, unlike Mr Emanuel, but she has been a two-term senator for New York state.

"She's had a certain position which has not been very friendly toward the Palestinians", said Karen AbuZayd, Commissioner General of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency on the Today programme this morning, adding, "we hope that there'll be a broader view once she comes into office". Ms AbuZayd's job involves daily dealing with the dismal humanitarian consequences of Israel's blockade of Gaza, so I'm not surprised she longs for a different US foreign policy in the region. But the implication from an international civil servant - who must get on with all the relevant players - that an incoming US Secretary of State is bringing too much political baggage to the job is unusual, to put it mildly. Is it not obvious that Secretary Clinton, representing the US national interest, will serve quite different political imperatives to Senator Clinton, representing one of the largest Jewish democratic constituencies in the world?

It was to be expected that extremists like al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri would write off President-elect Obama swiftly, calling him a "house negro", or, depending on which translation you follow, a "house slave". Similarly, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad already made a thinly veiled attack on Mr Obama during his speech at the United Nations in September.

US Secretary of Defense Robert GatesThe response to the appointment of the new foreign policy team shows something else. In the first place, the president-elect's campaign promise of change was always going to look less exciting once he put in place the people with the necessary political experience to run their departments. If you think Ms Clinton comes with political baggage - what about Robert Gates, who will switch from being President Bush's defence secretary for the past to years to the new president's administration?

Secondly, there are certain laws of political gravity that cannot be defied, whatever the brand of a new administration. The anti-American imperative is so central to certain ideologies - in this case militant Islam - that any Jewish appointees or appeals to Jewish voters will be used to argue the administration is pro-Zionist. It might turn out to be, but shouldn't everyone wait until the new president has been sworn in and set out some Middle East policies before jumping to that conclusion?


  • Comment number 1.

    attacking people only unites them and give the appearance of them as victims of immoderate language.

    rather praise them and watch them tear each other to shreds?

  • Comment number 2.

    I hope that Obama's honeymoon is not already over with.

  • Comment number 3.

    I took your advice and Googled 'Rahm Emanuel' and 'Zionist'. I wish I hadn't. Immediately, I found myself reading a rant on some Pakistani website ( about the Mumbai attack and how "Hindu Zionists" with a "Jewish mentality" were somehow responsible. The writer was from London! These people are sick.

  • Comment number 4.


    which page was that? I just searched and after a few pages i didn't find anything like that?

  • Comment number 5.

    To bookhimdano, Well, I went back to and quickly found:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Very similar, although not exactly what I referred to previously.

  • Comment number 6.

    bookhimdano, there's much worse to find if you Google "Hindu Zionist" or "Zionist Hindu".

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.


    Personal power and aggrandisement are heady wine to those whose fruit was bitter when young.

    Blair's decade was all about Blair, and when it ended, his instant abandonment of Sedgefield, the constituency that returned him repeatedly, spoke volumes. Blair made friends with power, money and tacky fame. It appears that Obama has made 'a good start'.

    That Obama has taken Hillary to his side, knowing her relationship with reality is - to say the least - 'creative' suggest she has been chosen for something other than integrity. Is this the lawyer amorality, solely intent on a win for his 'client' (one Barack Obama) that we see in action? Tony also trained in law; time will tell.

  • Comment number 9.

    Obama presented himself as the protypical tabula rasa, and people threw all kinds of hopes and dreams onto that slate. Shouting Change! was good politics, but poor policy. Like children waiting for Santa Claus, or a group of millenial apocalyptics waiting for the world to end on January 1, 2000, many people deluded themselves into thinking that electing a second-rate lawyer with 3 years' experience as a US Senator was going to create utopia. It's funny but sad.

    Obama was elected without experience and without any real ideas of how to enact real change. The wisest thing he could do was put himself under the wing of the Clintons.

  • Comment number 10.

    The anti-Zionists rants were only to be expected whoever had been elected, since general non-Jewish opinion is far more sympathetic to Israel in the USA than anywhere else. As for the progressives, both parties have their loonies, but from what weve seen do far Obama isn't going to let Democratic loonies do to his adminstration what Republican loonies did to Bush's.

  • Comment number 11.

    Guys - look really - he's a politician. He is not superman and I am really sorry everyone got so carried away with his election. Yes it was historical and quite stirring in the thick of the fanfare and rock gig theatrics of US politics but he is incredibly limited in what he can do. The American people are about as war hungry as you get and Pakistan should satify this very soon as both a new conquest and something to hang 'hope' on as the reality of the endless and doomed occupation of Iraq sinks in with even the most naive of patriots.

    How could he come to this position of power with a fresh viewpoint? For instance he 'had' to believe in god or he simply would not have been voted in. You don't come to this post with a radical agenda - you can't. The parameters are already decided. The lines in this war have been drawn for millenia and are so firmly entrenched culturally and psychologically that even if he had personally gone around every disgruntled Arab state or radical Islamic delegation apologised and sworn nothing but a big love in there are people who would still still see the US as utterly evil.

    And there is the problem a nasty mix of religion, ignorance and stupid folly strewn extreme nationalism on both sides. Obama can affect a few odds and ends in office but unless he can change history and most importantly people these will be cosmetic.

    The two sides are diametrically opposed on two paths that can never merge. Unfortunately unless there is some huge wave of enlightenment on the way where people realise the stupidity of being divisively loyal to somewhere you had no choice of being born and the futility of aligning themselves with the anachronistic violence and hate incubator that is religion we are just going to see more of the same no matter who is in power. Sad but true.

  • Comment number 12.

    This article gives far too much credibility to extreme views. You read the title and you'd think the debate was taking place at a higher level. You get to the actual article and you find the author linking the end of the honeymoon to extreme views.

    The problem with this is that there are certain people who will never be happy with anything but sheiks and mullahs ruling the world. And until they do, these people will complain.

    Its no surprise to anyone that governing is different to campaigning. Change or no change, Mr Obama needs experience in his White House. He needs the know-how of Washington insiders, and he benefits significantly from the influence of a Clinton on his team.

    The important thing is the leadership. And right now, Mr Obama is aptly demonstrating that he is better than anyone else for the job that he will start on Jan 20.

  • Comment number 13.

    Look's like there still a bright rosy future for Mr Blair aka pseudo socialist. Especially since he'll be cosing up to Hilary.....I feel for the people @ the seriously sharp end of the middle east hotspots...

  • Comment number 14.


    Mans cleverness has dominated this anomalous period of planetary quiescence.
    Wisdom has been left far behind. The result is endemic immaturity from birth to death.
    The desperate immature inveigle the perplexed immature into elevating them to high office, while the grasping immature stand close enough to gain material profit.

    'The fault lies in ourselves', but while we 'live within the lie' nothing will change.

    I asked my MP to step up as a UK People's Hero - he declined.

    The world needs a hero.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.


    But a US Secretary of State who told the world SHE HAD BEEN UNDER FIRE? What did Hillary's 'miss speak' tell us about Hillary? Did it not tell Obama the same?

    No wonder politicians always plead that we keep 'personalities out of politics'.

  • Comment number 17.

    From left to right, Obama is gaining praise for the appointments he is making during his transition period. Given the state of the nation that he has to lead, he is doing a remarkable and sure-ffoted job.

  • Comment number 18.

    I get the feeling that Obama is a very determined man and, as he made clear when he announced Hilary as Secretary of State, the policies will be his and the "buck" will stop with him. Somehow, I think that anyone who doesn't tow his policy line will not last long - including Hilary.

    And, despite al Quaeda's racist name calling (is this the most incisive statement they can come up with?), it overlooks the fact that Obama's heritage is not stereotypically African-American and so he brings with him some genuinely different life experiences. Lets see what his first six months in office bring, then we can comment.

  • Comment number 19.


    I have posted before on the Charismatic Orator phenomenon. Picture Blair in your mind at the beginning then read this:

    Then look at the Tony Blair we now know and tread carefully.

  • Comment number 20.

    Reaction to the influence of the Jewish lobby over US foreign policy has lead to more war than peace.
    Anything which perpetuates this situation is bad, and Rahm Emanual's appointment is not a good sign. His father's comments in an Israeli paper says it all.
    I'm not anti-semetic but I think Obama should say to Israel: given the fact that the US is nearly Bankrupt, I'm putting on hold all those millions of dollars you get from us to prop up your economy.
    Then Israel would have to worry more about what the rest of the world thought of them, and that could lead to some different thinking in Tel Aviv.

  • Comment number 21.

    I feared this may happened. Obama has always shown a slight insecurity about not appearing mainstream or pro-Israel enough, also he has always tried to minimise any links to his Islamic/ Muslim heritage. So much so, that, he (as I feared) has gone to the other extreme, almost hawkish, with foreign policy. I think there will be little change in US foreign policy towards the Middle East, although, given the alternative, I will gladly accept.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Mark,

    I like your Newsblog title: "War & Peace".

    Perhaps it will be possible to find here news about wars that are given so little coverage!

    Lately, rather than the BBC, I found myself watching Aljazira, France24 and Channel 4 News who first broadcasted the latest twist in DRC's lengthy and bloody war!

    As for President - Elect- Obama, it's true tough days lie ahead, but he has so far made the right decisions.

    In electing Him, the American people have shown the whole world they can change.

    I am not saying they chose him out of pitty to heal some of the regrettable scars in their history (coz I believe he was a better candidate than Sen J Macain) BUT this election still shows the American people are well ahead in the league as far as restauring and living up to their ideals is concerned.

    Some of us looked at you, Americans, with a deep sense of envy on Nov 4 2008!

  • Comment number 23.

    "Ms AbuZayd's job involves daily dealing with the dismal humanitarian consequences of Israel's blockade of Gaza, so I'm not surprised she longs for a different US foreign policy in the region."

    Really? I've understood for a long time the BBC's agenda and bias when it comes to Israel - media watchdogs have complained often enough about that - but I would have thought, just for once, that someone could be fair and balanced and mention the Palestinian terrorism perpetrated on a daily basis towards the civilian Jewish population. What you call a 'blockade' is no such thing. Humanitarian aid and fuel continues to be delivered, despite the fact that Hamas militants rocket southern Israel. Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza, for peace, but what happened? The Palestinians simply use those areas to fire rockets into Israel. Faced with daily rocket attacks I wonder how any other government would react?

  • Comment number 24.

    Did as you said and put 'Rahm Emanuel' and 'Zionist' in to a search engine. oh dear oh dear. employing the children of terroists, not good.

    so the 2 state becomes a 1 state solutions. and the road map gets sat nav. Damn i was hoping for the return of the state of Palistine as my Grandfather was stationed there before Rahms dad did what he did.

    what was the boy thinking...

  • Comment number 25.

    "... I think Obama should say to Israel: given the fact that the US is nearly Bankrupt, I'm putting on hold all those millions of dollars you get from us to prop up your economy.
    Then Israel would have to worry more about what the rest of the world thought of them, and that could lead to some different thinking in Tel Aviv."

    And perhaps the UN, the European Union and everyone else should tell the Palestinians that they are putting on hold the billions of dollars that they have been given over the years... Where has that money all disappeared to?

    If Israel doesn't worry about what the world thinks of them it's only because they learned a long time ago that most of the world swallows the pro-Palestinian propaganda pumped out by the media, including the BBBC, and consequently the world ends up supporting Israel's militant, terrorist enemies.

  • Comment number 26.

    There is an assumption in this post and in the responses that Zionism is somehow a bad thing.
    Zionism represents a safe haven for people who have suffered incredible slaughter over the centuries, and are presently under almost daily attack by an enemy that wants to kill Jews. I will leave you with an excerpt from the Hamas charter. The group in control of the "blockaded" Gaza Strip.
    Try this exercise.
    Substitute the name of your religion for the word Jew and imagine your town is under daily rocket attack by these people. Now think of what response you would want from your government. Remember, the rocket attacks are against towns in Israel proper, predated any blockade, and were intensified after Israel withdrew from Gaza.

    The Islamic Resistance Movement is the full complete name for Hamas. Hamas is an acronym.

    Article 7 of the Hamas Charter.

    The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to implement Allah's promise, whatever time that may take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until the Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them), until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: Oh Muslim! Oh Abdullah!, there is a Jew behind me, come on and kill him. Only the Gharqad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews."


  • Comment number 27.

    I wonder for whom is the honeymoon over. For the Americans? For the voters who elected Mr. Emanuel to the House of Representatives or those who have elected Sen. Clinton to the Senate a few years ago?

    It seems that the UK is obsessed with the pro-Israeli attitude of the President Elect and his team, especially since for the last 60 years the UK has shown in every way its devotion to the pro-Muslim cause...

    Just think for a minute. Who created the Palestinian problem? Who put the Palestinians in interim camps? Who refuses to help them and prefers to see them suffer?

    Mr. Emanuel's father fought the British and the Arabs before 1948. He may say what he wants about whoever he wants. Certainly one can't charge the son for his father's words.

    And so, whereas British public opinion, British press and British academy is so anti Israeli, it's good to know the USA is the opposite.

  • Comment number 28.

    #20, The US currently gives exactly zero dollars in economic aid to Israel. It does give a load of military aid. Maybe you have Israel confused with the Palestinians?

  • Comment number 29.

    I think people like Hamas are fighting a lost battle.

    There is no way anyone will attract the world's sympathy if they are fundamentally set out to kill others due to their faith/race.

    Obama actually represents a different strategy for Afro-Americans, whether planned or coincidental:

    Although a necessary componet of the fight against racial segregation in US, the mass protests and PEACEFUL confronations were alone not going to yield a 4 Nov 2008. Let alone the carnage of Hamas and Al Qaida!

    I know many waste their time arguing over the true identity of President-Elect- Obama, but it is also good in itself that he is not a direct descendent of the former slaves. The key is that the latter identify to him, get garvanized along the new sense of purpose, dream and belonging.

    Then, they might never require an actual son of slaves' presidency to be confident about how much they can aspire or hope for!

    On the contrary, whether an ideological or a faith issue, Hamas and Al Qaida hope they can change the world through despicable carnage of innocent people, both in Israel, Washington, London, etc...or elsewhere in the world!

    Obama promises to open dialogue -difference to Bush and Blair era-) but, regardless of who is on the top of the World, Islamic Militants would be wrong to expect being rewarded for their carnage. I guess most people stand by Israel, not because they are Zionist, but because of what the alternative means: Carnage on our streets!

  • Comment number 30.

    I beleive what the world will find is Obama is a Dove with very sharp talons.

  • Comment number 31.

    To: post 28.

    I suggest you check out:

    It lists economic, food and military aid to Israel. That's in adition to loan grants, tax free loans etc etc etc.

    Don't allow your semetic paranoia obscure the facts.

  • Comment number 32.

    Nos. 28 & 31, does it really matter what does or doesn't the US give Israel?

    I don't remember the article being about Israel.

    I do suggest to any of you who think you know anything about Israel because you saw footage on the telly to have your Christmas vacation in Israel. Once there you might learn a little... (plus it's hotter and cheaper than Algrave or the Costa del Sol).

    I certainly enjoy going there...

  • Comment number 33.

    to post 32:
    The last paragraph of the article is about whether the new administration will be as pro-zionist as some fear. I'd say that includes US aid to Israel as being under discussion. And with around 8billion dollars of US loan guarantees propping up Israel's economy, Id say that's significant enough to warrant a mention.

    On the last point about tourism to Israel, I'd suggest that with Israel's current pariah state reputation in many parts of the world that might be wishful thinking. Once Israel starts caring about what the rest of the world thinks of it, then who knows what could happen.

  • Comment number 34.

    Since this debate has evolved, or devolved, into a debate about Israel, I have to say I do not see how Israel can survive in the long run. Israel's position in the Middle East is analagous to the early American colonies' position on the Eastern coast of America. The colonies survived because they had a technological superiority to the Indians, and because they continually increased that advantage. They also increased their population and pushed the boundaries further west, weakening the tribal peoples.

    Now imagine a static, ungrowing colony existing on a narrow strip of land along the coast. They might survive as long as they kept their technological advantage, but if the stalemate lasted long enough for the Indians to close the gap, say by building a nuclear arsenal, the colonies would not have a chance. In that same way, I don't see how Isreal can survive for another century in its present existence.

    It was foolish of the west, and the zionists, to found a nation which was completely surrounded by their enemies. A 45 mile wide stretch of France, or of America, could easily replace the current geography of Israel. I doubt any nation would cede the land, or the Israelis would choose to accept. But, in the long run, that is the only way the nation of Israel can survive.

  • Comment number 35.


    The Jews kept alive a belief that they had rights in perpetuity to the land their god gave them, that they were driven from best part of two millennia ago. In that, they are unique to my understanding. All other groupings, displaced by human or natural force, generally end up absorbed and (until blood typing and DNA came along) accepted as 'indigenous'.

    By the same token, the Polynesians might trek back to their point of origin, before migration, and claim Chile - or what have you. (I forget who won the argument, Heyerdahl or A N Other.) The Basques might even demand some remnant of Atlantis, poking above the waves!

    Animals tend to identify with 'territory' on the simple grounds of occupation. When religious animals lay claim, for complex cerebral reasons, animal law is broken. This is just one more problem the earth has, until we either learn to mature in one lifetime, or give the planet back to other apes who can.

  • Comment number 36.


    Obama's honeymoon will not end until; the Ciitzens in the United States start getting upset with the way of his policies are going to hurt them or if there are problems in his administration...


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