The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Everything that the President of the United States does send signals, some obvious and directly intended to communicate to a broad spectrum of people, and others considerably more subtle and intended to communicate only with a narrow constituency who can read between the lines.

You probably haven’t heard of Mary Robinson, a former President of Ireland and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Obama administration has proposed her name as one of 16 people to be awarded America’s Medal of Freedom—our highest civilian honor.

In the case of Mary Robinson, President Obama’s actions are, of course, intended to send signals. In this case the signals are subtle and intended to communicate only with a narrow constituency.

Mary Robinson is a champion of human rights—a noble calling. But Mary Robinson is a bit more than that. She chaired the infamous 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa – a hate fest that allowed Arab and African thugocracies to demonize the United States and Israel for human rights violations while never mentioning their own profound violations of human rights.

Gil Troy and Tevi Troy comment on the lead up to Durban:
In the tense months before convening in Durban, Robinson failed to listen to pleas from Secretary of State Colin Powell and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), among others, to stop Arab dictators from hijacking an anti-racism conference to advance their anti-Zionist agenda. Afterward, she declared the disaster a success, even after she herself belatedly condemned the vicious anti-Semitism coursing through the streets of Durban at a parallel forum of nongovernmental agencies.

Throughout her tenure as Commisioner, Roberts has seen fit to criticize the US and Israel repeated, but has levied only indirect criticism of true human rights violators around the world. Par for the course at the UN, but, if I may be so bold, probably not the CV of a Medal of Honor recipient.

Until now.

Was the Obama administration lax in vetting Ms. Robinson? Given their thoroughness in vetting Hillary Clinton’s nominees at the State Department, I have to doubt it.

Rather, Obama is sending a subtle signal. His intended audience? Those within his base who believe that the US is the cause of all the world’s problems and that Abu Ghraib was the rule, not the exception. And more important, those in the Arab world who believe that Israel has no right to exist and will look kindly on a President who honors someone who vociferously criticizes the “Zionist entity.”

Signals matter, and on the foreign policy front, President Obama is sending the wrong kind.