Some leaders are cream puffs, but few are as proud of it as Tzipi Livni, who showed that she relishes being identified with cream puffs.
Israel’s version of the “cream puff” is known as a “Kremm-Bow”—a chocolate-covered piece of fluff that sits on a wafer. Kids and adults love them, and they have less than a 100 calories apiece. Empty calories, but fun.
So what does Tzipi Livni the former foreign minister and former head of Kadima, formerly the biggest party in Israel, have to do with real-life cream puffs?
Every Israeli has his/her way of eating the Kremm-Bow, and Livni has been starved for attention. So Livni went on TV to demonstrate her way of eating cream puffs.
“For me they are much too tall,” said Livni of the cream puff that is hard to fit in one’s mouth with one bite.
[Passing thought: Israeli cartoonists always highlight Livni's famously capped teeth which seem—like the Kremm Bow—to be a bit too big for Livni's mouth.]
Israel TV Channel Ten, which is going out business because of mismanagement, devoted some of its news programs to Livni showing how she eats cream puffs. Think of it as air time meets air head.
For several minutes Livni gives the viewers a didactic disquisition on her way of meeting the challenge of fluff, as the camera zooms in to watch her technique. The former foreign minister, in a gesture of decisiveness, takes her hand and tamps down the Kremm-Bow. Firm surgical force.
Voila, now the cream puff is more manageable, though it messes up one’s fingers. Livni was so proud of her inventiveness. Channel Ten thought it news worthy. She got air time, and Channel Ten hoped to get ratings, but both will likely not succeed.
Livni has often been deemed “Mrs. Clean” by backers, but detractors think she is a cream puff who failed as foreign minister in Ehud Olmert’s government that mishandled wars against Hamas and Hizballah that attacked Israel in 2006 and 2008.
The proudly puffy Livni was not able to put together a coalition when Olmert resigned nor even after her Kadima Party outpaced Likud 28-27 in Knesset seats in the 2008 election after “Mrs. Clean” won the Kadima primary battle under suspicious circumstances.
In a primary rematch this year, she lost (handily) the reins of the Kadima Party to Shaul Mofaz, a former general who is almost as wishy-washy on the issues as Livni.
Livni left politics for a few weeks, but came back after feeling cravings for the action. She shopped for seven Kadima members to join her and bestow their campaign funds under Israel’s laws that allocate public funding by existing seats.
Journalists called it Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Some polls say she will get between eight and nine seats in the elections. The smart money says she will get less.
Americans who think that only Israelis have problems with air heads and air time should look a little harder in the mirror. President Barack Obama avoids press conferences where he might have to answer a real question not scripted on his teleprompter. Still, the White House press usually serves soft balls that look remarkably like Israeli Kremm-Bows.
Obama, like Livni, craves soft and easy air time. He has spent the last four years doing late-night entertainment shows like Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon, showing that Letterman knows the budget better than Obama or “slow-dancing” the news with Fallon. He loves to talk about his wife Michelle, not Libya.
Israel and America may still be the world two most inspirational democracies, but they now seem to have become dominated by cream puffs.
Where is Michelle Obama to scare away all those empty calories?
Dr. Michael Widlanski, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. A former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively at The New York Times, Cox Newspapers and The Jerusalem Post, he was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar Ilan University.