It’s no big secret that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. They have different political ideologies, economic viewpoints and international perspectives.
And when you compare Harper and Obama’s overall political records, the prime minister has a huge advantage.
Harper has won three straight federal elections, modernized the Conservative Party, taken principled policy positions and effectively managed the economy from a centre-right perspective.
Obama, who is in his second term in the White House, has crushed the U.S. economy, overseen soaring unemployment levels, and has supported half-baked policy programs like Obamacare.
Harper’s and Obama’s divergent positions on Israel and the Middle East are also worth noting. The former has become Israel’s greatest friend and ally, whereas the latter is now viewed with concern and, on occasion, suspicion when it comes to Israel’s safety and security.
Yet in spite of all this, Obama maintains a solid edge in popularity among Canadians. Two polling firms, Harris/Decima and Angus Reid, found that 68 per cent and 72 per cent of Canadians, respectively, would have voted for Obama in the 2012 presidential election. (Contrast this number with the 51.1 per cent he ultimately received from U.S. voters.)
Jewish voting patterns for Harper and Obama are also puzzling.
According to an Ipsos-Reid exit poll, 52 per cent of Canadian Jews supported Harper’s Conservatives in the 2011 federal election. While that’s the highest tally ever recorded for a right-leaning Canadian political party, it’s a low number considering Harper’s long standing philo-Semitic positions and pro-Israel leanings.
In contrast, Obama received 71 per cent of the Jewish vote in the 2012 presidential election. To Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s credit, his 29 per cent tally was the highest earned by an American conservative in nearly 25 years. Regardless, he lost to a liberal Democrat who pays more lip service to Israel, and gets less results, than any U.S. president in recent history.
To be fair, the winds of political change are still blowing in different directions. Canadian Jews are just starting to abandon the left-wing political malaise that has haunted them for generations. In time, their American counterparts will hopefully become more balanced when it comes to voting for the GOP.
In the meantime, here’s another reason Canadian Jews should be grateful that Obama doesn’t hold one of our passports: his preposterous position on Muslim anti-Semitism.
In an interview with The New Yorker’s David Remnick, Obama said that “the interests of Israel in stability and security are actually very closely aligned with the interests of the Sunni states.” You’re not alone in scratching your head over this puzzling analysis of Israel-Sunni Muslim relations.
Obama went on to make this eye-popping statement: “What’s preventing them from entering into even an informal alliance with at least normalized diplomatic relations is not that their interests are profoundly in conflict, but the Palestinian issue, as well as a long history of anti-Semitism that’s developed over the course of decades there, and anti-Arab sentiment that’s increased inside of Israel based on seeing buses being blown up. If you can start unwinding some of that, that creates a new equilibrium.”
That’s right. The U.S. president believes the scourge of Muslim anti-Semitism is only a few decades old. Clearly, the centuries of anti-Semitic hatred initiated by Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim and later Al-Malik, which affected Jews living in northern Syria and Morocco, must have escaped his vast knowledge of the region.
Let’s contrast this with Harper’s rational position on anti-Semitism.
In his speech to the Israeli Knesset on Jan. 20, the prime minister said, “we have witnessed, in recent years, the mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain. We all know about the old anti-Semitism. It was crude and ignorant, and it led to the horrors of the death camps.” Harper also noted “in many dark corners, it is still with us… in much of the western world, the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society.”
This led to one of Harper’s most impressive statements. “Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening. But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism. It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation.”
For the record: I’m a small “c” conservative. I’ve known Harper since 1996. I worked as one of his speechwriters. As well, I’ve occasionally been critical of the Tories for not being fiscally conservative enough.
Take me out of the equation, however. Wouldn’t you want a Canadian leader with a solid economic record, one with a strategic and tactical political mind, and who takes strong principled positions rather than politically correct ones? And wouldn’t you want someone in charge who supports Israel’s right to defend itself – and abhors the history of anti-Semitism?
Canadian Jews – and all Canadians – should, therefore, be pleased to have Stephen Harper, and not Barack Obama, as their political leader.
Michael Taube is a former speechwriter for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.