Sunday, February 5th | 14 Shevat 5783

August 22, 2017 11:11 am

The Downside of Victory

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avatar by Ruthie Blum


President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Netanyahu’s Twitter account.

Though members of the anti-Donald Trump camp would die before admitting ‎it, they are in a state of exhilaration over his presidency. Every time he opens ‎his mouth, they feel vindicated in their opposition to his election and justified ‎in their personal loathing of him. The same goes for Israeli Prime Minister ‎Benjamin Netanyahu’s detractors.‎

I know exactly what they are going through, as this is how I experienced the ‎eight years of former US President Barack Obama’s tenure. When Obama ‎was inaugurated in January 2009, I wept both tears of sadness and joy. I was ‎upset that this radical Saul Alinskyite with an antisemitic pastor was about to ‎take the helm of the most important position in the world. I was amused, ‎however, that he had emerged out of nowhere to swipe the Democratic ‎candidacy out of the clutches of Hillary Clinton, who was promised by her ‎party that she was a shoo-in. But mainly I was relieved, as a columnist, to be ‎able to spend the next several years calling the powers-that-be to task, rather ‎than having to defend them. ‎

In general, it is much easier to be a critic than a champion, because all ‎positions are flawed in some way. This is especially true where our preferred ‎politicians are concerned. Those we elect to represent our worldview not only ‎have faults; we are lucky if any of them are even capable of understanding the ‎debate, let alone articulating it. So we end up having to do that on their behalf.

To be effective in this endeavor, we have to be clever, and that takes work. It’s ‎hard always having to preface support for an idea by acknowledging its ‎blemishes — as Winston Churchill did when describing democracy as the ‎‎”worst form of government … except for all those other forms.” Imagine how ‎trite and pathetic that sentence would have sounded had its order been ‎reversed.‎

Indeed, to put up a good defense, we have to anticipate the ‎prosecutorial argument of our adversaries and head it off at the pass by ‎presenting its merits, even when we don’t really wish to see any. Members of ‎both the Left and the Right who fail to do this come off as fanatics or fools. ‎

In contrast, being on the offensive requires little more than hurling darts at the ‎heart of a matter. Which is why I so frequently go after Palestinian Authority ‎President Mahmoud Abbas, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ‎Iranian regime and all their apologists in the West. ‎

Far trickier is defending Trump and Netanyahu, both of whom I voted for and ‎still support, in spite of valid reasons to have qualms about each.‎

As a dual citizen of two democratic countries, I am faced every few years with ‎the same type of choice on either side of the Atlantic Ocean: a candidate/party ‎whose platform I completely reject versus a candidate/party with the right ‎agenda, but a dubious ability to carry it out. I always opt for the latter.‎

Since 2015, I have had the misfortune of voting for the victors. It has been a ‎burden I often wish I could shed. The one mitigating factor — that which makes ‎my job less difficult — is the violent reaction in America to Trump and in Israel ‎to Netanyahu. It is an extreme response I do not share and cannot accept. But ‎it does make me envious. ‎

After all, there is nothing quite like the elation that comes with political outrage ‎and moral indignation.‎

Ruthie Blum is an editor at the Gatestone Institute.

This piece first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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