I first met Ruthie Blum in Jerusalem in 2005. I already knew she was a gifted writer. Since then, I’ve become an avid fan, reading her perfect blend of hard news and feature writing. She “gets it” in an era when most don’t.
The Middle East, I mean.
Honestly, it was almost inevitable that Ruthie would become a great writer, because she was born to it. The daughter of Midge Decter and Norman Podhoretz had no other option. And her latest book, “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’” is absolutely sensational, riveting and chilling.
I like the fact that philanthropist David Azrieli wrote the foreword – and in it explains that he commissioned the work because he was so concerned about the direction of U.S. foreign policy – and the book just picks up speed from there (truthfully, you might also consider Steven Hayward’s “The Real Jimmy Carter” as a primer for this book).
The thrust of “To Hell in a Handbasket” is that Barack Obama’s Middle East policy is simply as close to a second Carter term as one could imagine. Both men, cleverly concealing their true leftist agendas, almost immediately began creating extremely dangerous realities for the West once they took office.
I do not subscribe to the theory that Obama is an “idiot,” since his tactics track more with a coldly calculating change agent than with a hapless dupe. Blum uncovers a revealing directive from Obama early on in “To Hell in a Handbasket.” As the so-called “Arab Spring” began to roll-out, the president “told his advisers to challenge the traditional idea that stability in the Middle East always served U.S. interests.”
That is an eyebrow-raising view, since the status quo – while not always preferable – was itself a stabilizing factor in a tough region.
In other words, Obama’s policy in dealing with the rolling revolutions seemed tailor-made for bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power. Eerily, his decisions seem to have been made in the shadow of Carter’s disastrous Iran policy a quarter-century earlier, when Persia came under the grip of the mullahs. Blum does a terrific job summarizing the events that left Iran in peril and Carter’s presidency in shambles.
There is plenty of nuanced detail in this book, including Carter’s salty response to Henry Kissinger, who implored the president to save the Shah.
“F**k the Shah,” replied the peanut-farmer/Sunday school teacher.
Not long after that, as Blum expertly shows, Iran fell into a black hole of Islamist rule. The decisions of those days have brought us to the moment we now find ourselves in: staring down a regime determined to nuke Israel … at least.
Blum also does an extraordinary job in providing rich and relevant detail that others miss, such as the January 1979 meeting in Paris between the Ayatollah Khomeni, the dovish former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Princeton law professor Richard Falk and the National Council of Churches’ Don Luce. Point being, upon their return to the U.S., Clark announced that the ayatollah was “a brave man.” Such stupidity has been the hallmark of the secular and religious left for many generations.
From there, Blum recounts how the ayatollah played Carter like a second-hand dulcimer, dangling hope in front of the embarrassing and deluded “commander-in-chief,” only to pull it away and up the ante.
Back to Obama.
Blum highlights an important, but under-reported, fact about Obama’s “apology tour” only months after taking office.
Speaking to an Egyptian audience in Cairo – dominated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood – Obama said, “Assalaamu alaykum [peace be with you],” and as Blum points out, that is an Arab greeting “only used when one Muslim is addressing another (which the audience necessarily perceived as Obama’s way of saying he himself was one of them).”
What was Blum saying, and what am I saying? You know perfectly well. There is a reason why certain leaders make treasonous decisions: they want to.
Carter appeased radical Muslims, and Obama is an apologist for them. That is a dangerous progression in thought and action for an American president. Sadly, in the midst of their hideous policies, both Carter and Obama behaved as only a narcissist can in such circumstances: as a messiah.
Obama has also telegraphed his hollow liberalism, which in its purest form should support women’s civil rights.
Instead, he has said, “Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear.”
It is not the Americans who dictate what a Muslim woman should wear, Mr. President. In point of fact, Muslim women are brutalized by their men, and it is shameful for eternity that Barack Obama and his clever wife suppress that fact.
Blum also makes an important point in Chapter 3 (“From Cairo to Jerusalem”). Egypt’s Nasser, a typical tinhorn dictator in the Middle East, back in the 1960s, felt he had a firm grasp on American leaders: “His idea was that all American presidents must be stupid, since they believed that bad guys can become good guys if they are treated nicely.”
This is a key point. It means that Arab/Muslim leaders in the Middle East know full well that bad guys don’t become good guys, at all. This seems to have escaped American presidents like Carter and Obama, and Blum expertly highlights the importance of such discernment and lack of discernment.
Ruthie Blum lives in Israel, and therefore is a realist, not an idealist. One cannot be the latter and survive long in the Middle East. In “To Hell in a Handbasket,” she shows very clearly that it is absolutely vital Americans elect presidents who are realists. We have the chance to do that in November.
That is why I cannot emphasize enough how important this book is. It deserves a wide audience, and I literally pray that it reaches that audience, before it’s too late for all of us.