Last November, a few days before the 2008 election that brought Barack Obama into the White House as the 44th US President, Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman wrote what we called a “Letter to the new American President.” We didn’t know who would be elected, Obama or Sen. John McCain, but Donniel wanted to write the note to whichever of them won the election. In it, however, Donniel placed a sentence that makes me wonder, at least, if the column found its way to Obama’s desk recently.
The job of a friend is not always to support by agreeing; sometimes, it involves support that challenges, pushes, and prods. You are going to have to be that type of friend. At times I might find it painful and disagree with you, but I will never question your motives.
To me, that sounds a lot like the so-called “tough love” Obama was indicating in an interview he gave to National Public Radio in Washington a few days ago, just before his trip to the Arab Middle East, which will include stops in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but, pointedly, none (scheduled, at least) to Israel. Here’s what President Obama said:
Part of being a good friend is being honest. And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region.
You should know that we sent the column to several people we were assured had access to then President-elect Obama. I’m sure the man was bombarded in the days after the election, and I never heard back from anyone about whether he was shown the column. But it sure seems that way, doesn’t it?