Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and the former U.N. official who allowed Durban I to become an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rout, has called Jewish groups’ protests against her receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom “bullying.” (See page 28.)
Some Jewish organizations have indeed been known to thunder in the public square, but it is not bullying to speak the truth: This woman – who does have some redeeming history – does not deserve this nation’s highest civilian honor.
The Obama administration, although tenanted by so many smart and capable people, did not do its homework vis-Ã -vis Robinson’s attitudes toward Jews and Israel. And now, of course, it cannot rescind the honor because that would look like caving in to “bullying.”
One honoree who certainly does deserve the medal will not, alas, be able to receive it personally. Jack Kemp, a former congressman and vice-presidential candidate, died May 1. An active advocate for Soviet Jewry who called himself a “bleeding heart conservative,” he was eulogized as a friend of Israel and even a righteous gentile. (He seems to have been righteous all across the board.)
Robinson is a pygmy next to him.
Speaking of stature, we can’t resist repeating an anecdote told by Maureen Dowd in Wednesday’s New York Times Ã propos of North Korean’s Kim Jong-il: “Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, was having dinner with [director Billy] Wilder years ago when the subject of Swifty Lazar, the very famous and short agent came up.
“Putting down his knife and fork, Wilder announced: ‘That man should go hang himself from a bonsai tree.'”
Kim Jong-il’s probably feeling a little taller right now, having enjoyed some face time (and a photo op) with former President Bill Clinton. But Clinton’s the one whose public stature is on the rise. By trekking to North Korea and negotiating the release of imprisoned American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, he’s behaving like an exemplary ex-president, using his clout to aid his country and its citizens (unlike a certain ex-president who uses his to polarize and divide).