What's in the box?
Tigerhawk raises the interesting possibility that Barack Obama is worth more undefined than defined. To question what does Barack Obama really think about Israel the best answer (from his perspective might be) "what do you think I think?"
Ed Lasky (American Thinker) and Paul Mirengoff (Power Line) are wondering why Barack Obama has enlisted Robert Malley as one of his foreign policy advisors. As the various links reveal, Malley is just about as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli as credible foreign policy analysts get, at least in the United States. Now, Malley is but one advisor to Obama among many, and his views clearly diverge from Obama's stated positions. This raises the question, why does Obama list such an inflammatory figure as an advisor? Does Obama merely want different perspectives on his team, or does he genuinely agree with Malley notwithstanding his soothing words to Jewish groups, or is he sending a disingenuous signal to the big-money donors on the transnational left that America will weaken its support for Israel under an Obama presidency? Any of these explanations strike me as possible. It would be wonderful (hint, hint) if mainstream media journalists made some passing attempt to ascertain the correct explanation.
The conventional wisdom is that political platforms exist to define a candidate, much like a spec sheet describes a product. A candidate who wishes to appeal to certain groups of voters, according to this line of thinking, benefits by tuning himself to their preferences. By adopting an optimal mix of policy positions, each of which yields an expected number of votes, the candidate can craft a plank which maximizes the sum of votes yielded by the different policy positions.
But consider an alternative strategy in which a candidate deliberately keeps one or more of his policy positions ambiguous. Two possibilities present themselves which would otherwise not be available to a candidate who defined himself completely. The first is the prospect of attracting multiple sets of constituencies around the ambiguous policy platform. Each constituency may be allowed to think it knows what the candidate's position will be and act on that misunderstanding or understanding. Obama, by saying he is pro-Israel and appointing Malley as an adviser, creates a kind of political Rorschach inkblot test in which those who think Obama is "pro-Israel" support him and those who think he is "anti-Israel" support him too. They are sold a box. And they think they know the contents of the box. But they only get to open the box after Obama is elected President.
The other possibility having an undefined platform creates is that it creates an implicit bidding situation. Democratic Jewish groups may say, "Oh, if we don't support Obama, then he might be captured by the likes of Malley." And the likes of Malley are probably saying to themselves, "unless we throw everything behind Obama, he may be captured by the pro-Israel lobby." Thus, the two sides will outdo themselves for the favor of the candidate. If in the first case Obama could sell a ticket twice, in the latter case he can hold an auction to sell it to the highest bidder.
Everyone who was once a teenager remembers the situation well. Nothing fired youthful ardor more than the knowledge there was a rival bidding fair for the affection of the girl of your dreams. More often than not, a girl in that position, got two invitations everywhere. "Hope" is a commodity in itself.