In a story that went largely unnoticed over the weekend (particularly among Jews celebrating Rosh Hashana), the New York Times reported that VP Joe Biden attended a meeting of 15 rabbis in Boca Raton, Florida, in an attempt to “reassure Jewish voters, and get them to contribute, too.” However, it was Biden’s statement regarding a convicted Israeli spy that is getting a lot of attention from not only the Jewish press, but the Israeli government, as well.
From the NYT report:
One of the rabbis asked why Jonathan Pollard, the Israeli spy convicted in 1986, was still in prison. Mr. Biden, on a mission to shore up support for President Obama, replied forcefully, according to several people at the meeting.
“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,’ ” Mr. Biden said. “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”
Aside from the obligatory “Bidenism” (Pollard was sentenced to life in 1987), what is interesting here is the VP’s complete and unexplained reversal of course on this issue, given that he expressed his support for commuting Pollard’s sentence to time served just four years ago:
Biden’s contradictory positions on Pollard’s continued imprisonment come at a particularly curious time for an administration that has made more than a few missteps in its relationship with Israel, and suffered dramatic losses at the ballot box with the elections of Republicans Bob Turner and Allen West in districts with substantial Jewish populations.
Speaking of Rep. West, the Jerusalem Post’s Gil Hoffman quoted from a letter the Florida Republican wrote to the president back in June regarding the repeated calls from the Jewish community for Pollard’s release:
“After serving 26 years behind bars, Pollard’s health is deteriorating as is his wife’s,” West wrote. “If [the US] can consent to the release by the British of the Lockerbie Bomber back to Libya due to health concerns, how can we justify keeping Mr. Pollard behind bars when his crimes were clearly not as serious as a terrorist who murdered hundreds of Americans?”
Now, as a former Army nuclear weapons officer, I harbor no deep and abiding respect for convicted spies, be their sponsors allies or enemies. However, West’s comparison of this case to al-Megrahi (who’s still quite alive, incidentally) is absolutely spot-on.
So the question remains: Why the sudden (not to mention strongly worded) shift in attitude, Mr. Biden? Certainly, the Obama administration’s motives here wouldn’t be so ridiculously transparent and obscenely dishonest, would they?
Given what we’ve seen from this administration, and their curious habit of assuming the 53% of the American population that elected them still believe today is Tuesday, January 20, 2009, I believe they would, indeed.