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I WITNESS: Can Joe Biden survive the Israel-Hamas War?

Joe Biden appears to be painting himself into a corner from which he may not be able to emerge to secure a second term in the White House.

I feel sorry for Joe Biden these days. In spite of his best efforts, inflation and interest rates are still too high, Muslim-Americans are withholding their votes because they object to his continued assistance to Israel, and university students are rioting across American college campuses as they, along with their professors, express their outrage over Gaza in ways that are well documented by the media—and not, necessarily, in a good way.

It rather reminds me of the last time that international conflicts destroyed a presidency. In 1968, the war in Vietnam ended Lyndon Johnson’s chance of being reelected. Knowing this, he declined to run for a second term. The general objection to compelling our sons to fight and die in the jungles of Southeast Asia, in someone else’s war, all but eliminated the possibility of a Democratic victory in the presidential election. The televised, police-induced riot outside of the Democratic Party nominating convention in Chicago in 1968 was the final nail in the coffin, and Richard Nixon won the election.

Although many Americans agreed that we had no business fighting someone else’s war in Vietnam, there were an equal number of Americans who were horrified by the sight of angry 18-year-olds burning their draft cards, setting fire to the American flag, and demonstrating by the thousands on American campuses. It horrified them even more than the horrible war they were watching unspool every night on the evening news.

Now, almost 60 years later, Biden must contend with his own international crises: the war in Ukraine; the rise of global authoritarianism; and, most particularly, the horrific carnage in Israel and Gaza, which may be the tipping point that dooms his chance for reelection.

Biden currently finds himself dangling by a thread between acknowledging that the complete destruction of Gaza and its citizens looks very much like a genocide and his commitment to the protection of Israel.

No matter where one lands on this issue, there is plenty of outrage on both sides, and at this point, no one is happy with what is going on in that war-torn hellscape.

I have written before that there are no monolithic voting groups, except, perhaps, for the MAGA-leaning swath of the electorate. Their votes will go, without question, to Donald Trump. They are locked and loaded, and they would rather follow him right over a cliff than cast a vote for Biden.

But other groups present more nuance, not necessarily leaning in one direction instead of the other. While I certainly know that almost every Jew on Earth believes that Israel has a right to exist and thrive, and certainly has every right to defend itself, there are clearly major differences in perspective among the Jewish citizens of America.

If it were up to me—and clearly, it is not—there would be no more provision of offensive weapons to Israel until such time as Netanyahu and honorable Palestinian leaders (clearly, this would not include Hamas or Hezbollah) sit down and negotiate a ceasefire on the way to a reasonable two-state solution. Defensive weapons, absolutely; offensive weapons, no. Just because Netanyahu wants to wipe the Palestinian people off the face of the planet doesn’t mean that the United States is obliged to underwrite that endeavor.

But Joe Biden, politician that he is, is trying to have it both ways: He condemns the wholesale slaughter of innocents in Gaza, but doesn’t want to enrage that part of the electorate that expects him to continue sending bombs and money to Israel. He appears to be painting himself into a corner from which he may not be able to emerge to secure a second term in the White House. When it comes to this humanitarian catastrophe, he will enrage some portion of the electorate no matter what he does.

I would like to caution all of the students who are currently protesting in a way that is disruptive to the colleges they attend that the citizens of Gaza are likely to fare worse—far worse—under another Trump presidency. He will be only too happy to arm Netanyahu to the teeth with as many offensive weapons as he needs to finish off the citizens of Gaza and will be equally delighted to quell student protests in America by sending the military, with weapons drawn, onto their college campuses. Today’s students are too young to have witnessed what happened when the governor of Ohio, flexing his law-and-order muscles, sent the National Guard to Kent State University in May of 1970 to stop the anti-war demonstrations. I remember it well: Four students were shot and killed.

It is beyond strange that the Democratic Party, during this time of significant political upheaval, student unrest, and violent protest, would decide to return to Chicago this year for their nominating convention. A rerun of the protests at the 1968 convention, complete with the televised spectacle of police in riot gear beating them senseless and dragging them away in paddy wagons, seems almost inevitable.

Whether it is justified, or reasonable, or fair, the war in the Middle East may well become Joe Biden’s Waterloo.

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