Monday, October 25, 2004

I'm Frum. I'm voting for Kerry. Why you should, too.

Why am I writing this post?

The fact is, for a fair amount of time now I've been thinking about -- and working on -- a sort of large scale (a) general defense of political liberalism slash (b) reconciliation of the apparent contradiction between my Orthodox Judaism and my liberal political views slash (c) argument supporting Kerry slash (d) argument opposing Bush.

And it's coming along, in fits and starts and chunks and drafts and bits and pieces. It's vast and lyrical and impeccably reasoned, eloquently expressed, and elegantly structured. If I could ever get it finished I'm sure George W Bush himself would either vote for Kerry or at the least renounce the path he's been on for the past four years.

But I'm having a little trouble reeling in that particular rambling text, and even what I've got so far is (as mentioned) vast, so as to make even my longer posts on Frumdad seem guppies to its whale of text. And, candor requires that I admit that it may perhaps be less than "elegantly structured" as claimed above. Right now it's more just a pastiche of short, no-segue essays floating around on my hard drive or in my head or both.

And normally, this state of affairs wouldn't bother me so much. I do feel what has been called a "blogligation" -- which is to say an obligation to my blog audience -- to post something substantive to Frumdad about every two weeks or so, but nothing requires that post to be political.

In fact, Frumdad is emphatically not a political blog. It is not even, so much as can be helped, a blog about my daughter, who (if I haven't mentioned it, I will now) is perfect, beautiful, wonderful in all ways, and about whom I could easily blog daily if not hourly. It is a blog about the intersection of my identities as Orthodox Jew and Father. It is about (as I have no doubt mentioned a number of times) how Judaism informs my Parenting, and how Parenting informs my Judaism.

So this isn't a post I was really expecting to write. But a few things have happened that have almost forced my hand.

First, looking at and thinking about the upcoming election, I've come to the opinion that this is a critical turning point in the future history of this great nation. This November, I believe, we will make a profoundly determinative choice -- assuming the electronic balloting or the still-uncorrected Florida voter rolls don't disenfranchise too many people -- that will drastically affect this great nation's place in the world, and the lifestyle and well-being of we who live in it.

Now, it's true that like any good Orthodox Jew, I harbor messianic aspirations -- to put it in Maimonedes' terms, I believe with a complete faith that the Moshiach will come, and even though he may tarry, nonetheless I wait for him. And I realize that when he comes, a lot of these debates will be at least significantly different if not entirely moot. But still, for the foreseeable future, I'm in America, and the odds are good that Rachel's gonna spend at least a fair chunk of time growing up here, too.

Second, I've heard a lot of people that I normally respect say a lot of very sketchy things about how the Torah vote is clearly for Bush. Happily, almost all of these people wouldn't consider themselves absolute Torah authorities when it comes to most questions. They would, as is appropriate, seek what's called "Da'as Torah," or the opinion of a qualified posek or a rav, when making big decisions. Most of them would happily seek such advice when making even little decisions.

But somehow when it comes to politics, everyone's a gadol. Everyone considers themselves qualified to give over the Torah perspective, to state unequivocally that an Orthodox Jew, to be true to Torah values, must vote for Bush. And that's starting to drive me up the wall.

The blog is about the intersection of my Parenthood and my Orthodox Judaism, and this election touches on both.

I realize that with nine days or so left until the election, this post on my lightly trafficked blog will probably be of unnoticeable effect. I realize that for people who are convinced that God wants them to vote a certain way, the fact that I'm convinced that God wants them to vote the other way won't have much of an effect. I realize that the Orthodox Jewish vote is not considered a "swing" vote, though I wish it were. But even so, for what it's worth, here is my small voice in the wilderness. At least if Rachel ever asks me what I did at this critical juncture, I don't have to stand entirely mute and ashamed.

Administrative Notes:

A few administrative notes, before I begin:

  1. This is directed primarily at Orthodox Jews, particularly "charedim," and because of time and flow concerns I'm not going to unpack all the different terms and ideas I use in the same way I do on my regular blog. So, for instance, where I would normally footnote the term "charedim" and explain it for the non-frum and the non-Jew, I won't be doing that in this post.

  2. Even though this is directed primarily at Orthodox Jews, I think most of what I'm saying in here could apply to any committed religious person who isn't of exactly the same religious stripe as President Bush and friends. So I may include some generalizations or examples relating to Catholicism or other religions. I'm not in any way expert on those religions, so I may get some of that stuff wrong; please forgive me those errors and correct me gently.

  3. I will send a this blog entry (or a link thereto) to the DNC and RNC, and maybe some Orthodox Jewish organizations, and post their responses, if any, as separate entries on this blog, but I'm going to wangle the dates so that they show up after this entry. So if there's date-weirdness afoot, I'm not being disingenuous.

  4. Comments are open. I may or may not respond. Feel free to have a debate amongst yourselves, but try to play nice. If this post actually starts to get some real traffic, I will almost certainly not be able to moderate comments and I hereby disclaim responsibility for doing so in any event. I may close comments and open a new post for more comments if the page size gets unwieldy. I am apparently being very optimistic about the number of people who will read this post, but that's because I expect to upset most of my readers.

What We Can All Agree On
(The Torah Paradigm):

Let's just start with points I think we can all agree on. (By "we," remember I'm talking primarily to Jews, and more so to Orthodox Jews.)

Let's start with the easy stuff. We all want (roughly) the same thing, and we all want (less roughly) to avoid the same things.

Essentially, a Jew in golus -- and you should never forget that we're living in golus (exile). Golus Edom, no less -- is necessarily a religious libertarian. Which is to say, at the end of the day, if the government leaves me alone to build my succah, eat my matzah, and do my thing. . . if I don't have to worry every minute that someone's going to throw a rock through my window because of my Shabbos candles, and more importantly that the police (polizia) are going to bust down my door and drag me away for the same reason, then that's a pretty good place to be.

There is, as mentioned, the messianic aspiration in all of us, and under that understanding it would be better to live under a Religious Monarchy in Israel. But as long as we're in golus I think that it's fair to say that the best we can look for is to be left alone to our strange rituals.

We have an obligation, of course to make our best efforts to cajole and coerce the non-Jews to live by the seven Noachide commandments, but not, I would argue (and I would hope you agree) at the expense of our keeping our commandments.

What we don't want is easy to describe. We've unfortunately seen exactly what we don't want too often, too clearly, and too recently. We don't want the religious oppression of the former Soviet Union, and we really don't want the religious discrimination and oppression of the Nazi regime.

I think it's important, also, to think about the Torah paradigm for the political involvement of the Jew in exile. It's told over in a Midrash that Rav Yehuda Ha Nassi, before he would meet with Roman authorities, would review parshas Vayishlach -- dealing with Yaakov's encounter with Eisav. One of the most important teachings in that parsha, I would be so bold to say, is the whole drash on Genesis 32:12, "save me from the had of my brother, from he hand of Eisav," and it's relation to the whole "falling on the neck and crying" thing, where, essentially, Eisav is as dangerous (if not more so) when he takes the mask of "my brother." What I'm trying, none too subtly, to communicate here is that for an Orthodox Jew, too much complicity with and/or cooperation from the secular government should trigger warning lights. And when Eisav asks Yaakov to "travel with him a while," Yaakov begs off, and the commentaries go into some detail as to why.

Even though the parsha reviewed is not one involving Yoseph in Mitzrayim, it's worth looking at that situation, too. First of all it's worth noting precisely that -- that the paradigm cited was not Yoseph in Mitrayim. It's also important to note that even though Yoseph was a high consul, and had the power to institute tremendous moral laws, he did not do so. Although he did, for instance, force the Mitzrim to undergo circumcision, it's fairly clear from the commentary that he did this to protect the Jews that he knew were going to be brought down to Mitzrayim. He did this so they wouldn't stand out, not to make any kind of moral improvement in the Mitzrim.

So I want to claim that the Torah imperative for a Jew's involvement in secular government, as propounded by Yoseph and Yaakov, has two facets. First, an essential distrust, which is connected to the status of Edom as a descendant or Eisav and the Torah's description of their relationship then and throughout history. Second an overwhelming concern for the health and well being of the Jews who live in the exile.

Hopefully, what I've said so far is uncontroversial, and most of my compatriots would probably agree, if not wholly, then for the most part, with those basic principles. What I think happens, though, is that some issues are so hot-button emotional, that the rational consequences of those premises doesn't get understood.

We may as well start with the hottest of the hot-button issues.

Issue One: Gay Marriage

And here we have it. I have been asked directly, "How can you support the Democrats when their platform encourages homosexuality?"

First of all, I think it needs to be made clear. No where that I can see anywhere in the Democratic platform is there a plank that states that everyone should be a homosexual. No one is suggesting that every straight marriage out there be ended and replaced by forced homosexual ones. The plank is, essentially, that we should kind of leave homosexuals alone to do their thing.

Now, this is where everyone gets all excited and claims that there's a Torah problem even with the policy of "leave them alone." The Torah explicitly calls homosexuality is an "abomination."[fn1] So how can I argue that it's okay to "leave the homosexuals alone" when it's an abomination in the eyes of the Torah?
[fn1:]I haven't seen anything that convinces me that the prohibition or the appellation extends to female homosexuality, or even to male homosexuality among non-Jews. It's not a topic I anticipate broaching with my rabbi anytime soon, and for the purposes of this essay, I'll assume the "abomination" term extends to all of those acts. My argument is essentially unchanged regardless.
Here's the thing. Even though the Torah calls homosexuality an abomination, even though it is an abomination, a frum Jew in America should still oppose a gay marriage amendment. In fact, a frum Jew should still oppose anti-gay marriage legislation.

This is the most critical point I'm going to make, and if you don't want to read past the next few paragraphs, then at least I'll have planted this seed of an idea.

There's an important and necessary distinction between Torah values and the Secular Laws we (frum Jews) should espouse and support.

The easiest way to explain this is by example. Certainly, it can not be argued that it's a Torah value that a Jew is defined by matrilineal descent. It can not be argued that it's a Torah value that a Jew should not drive a car on the Sabbath, and that Sabbath is from Friday night to Saturday night, and that time frame includes from Sunrise on Saturday to Sundown on Saturday. These are all statements that no one who calls themselves a frum Jew can reasonably object to.

But let's say I proposed a law -- I get myself elected to Congress and I get up and propose a law for adoption by the United States secular authority -- that states, "All matrilineal Jews can not drive from sunrise on Saturday to sundown on Saturday."

What would be the proper response. What's your visceral response. I hope any reader would see that there's a problem here, but what is it?

If you're not creeped out yet, let's talk about enforcement of this law. How's a cop on the side of the road on a Saturday supposed to know who's a Jew and who's not a Jew? We could mark the cars, but then if a Jew lent his car to a non-Jew there'd be much difficulty. How about if every Jew had to, I don't know. . . wear something. Something visible to a cop on the side of the road, that would identify him as a Jew, so that if a cop saw him in a car he could give the Jew a ticket. Now what would be a good way to do that? How about something on the sleeve, near the shoulder? How about, I don't know, maybe, say, a yellow star?

Have I made my point painfully obvious? I'm trying to.

Certainly the law supports a Torah value. Certainly the Torah wants it to be the case that no matrilineal Jew in America drive a car during the day on Saturday. The Torah wants even more than that, but that's at least a start, right?

But having the secular government enforce it in this manner is a problem, because the law isn't passed in a vacuum, and the consequences of that law are too eerie, too close to the things we know that we don't want.

And here is the crux of the problem -- it's a question of the power we want to vest in the government.

Regardless of the "abomination" status of homosexuality, to allow the government to discriminate based on one's sexual proclivities, tendencies, or practices is to give the government far too much power. And quite honestly, our history has shown that it is a short time between when that kind of power is vested in a government and when that power is turned against us.

Because if you think that Homosexuality is any more alien to the vast majority of Americans than the laws of Niddah, then you've been living in an urban or near-urban center with a high concentration of Jews for too long. If you think that Homosexuality is any more strange to your typical middle-American than the rules of Shomer Negiah, then you haven't traveled enough. And if you don't think there's a way for that kind of power to turn around and bite us in the behind, then you haven't been paying attention.

This is not like that whole, "first they came for the Jews" thing. This is exactly that thing.

People who know me know that I espouse an even more radical idea about whether or not the idea of marriage belongs in the secular legal system at all, and that's a position I'll happily explain to anyone who asks, but not in this context. What I'm propounding here is a protection of the rights of gays as a way to protect the rights and lives of Jews.

What I'm saying is simply this: Every one of us should be incredibly leery of granting broad powers of this sort to the government just because we happen to agree with the particular exercise of that power. Every one of us should understand that the next time that power will be exercised it will most likely be in a manner with which we do not agree, in a manner which will, in fact be directed against us.

Issue Two: Iraq

The second elephant in the room -- and this is an issue not just for Jews but for everyone, really -- is Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

Let's get one thing out in the open right off the bat. Regardless of how you feel about Saddam, Iraq's position with respect to Israel, or the middle-east in general, it is beyond cavil that George W Bush predicated his preemptive war on one thing and one thing only -- the weapons of mass destruction.

He may do a little backtracking shuffle now, talking about how Saddam was a bad guy, about how he was a destabilizing influence, how he supported terrorists, and about how he was connected to 9/11, but the fact of the matter is that at the beginning of it all -- when he sent our troops into harm's way -- he did so based on the WMD issue.

Which has been shown now, pretty convincingly to all but the most extreme zealots, to have been a false premise. A pretense, if you will. A lie.

Now, you may think that he was fooled by his intelligence. But I find it difficult to believe that the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, and any other acronym couldn't figure out what was really going on in that country, and weren't really depending for such critical information on the informants that have since been shown to be so clearly biased and so clearly falsifying things.

I'm willing to go so far as to say that they were probably getting instructions -- subtle or explicit -- to "color" their information for a specific purpose. And those instructions were from the top.

Essentially I'm saying that I don't believe Bush when he says he was fooled. And I have a reason not to trust him since I see him lie so often recently, every time he pretends that he based the Iraq invasion on something besides WMD's. Every time he talks about Saddam and 9/11 as a reason he went to war, he demonstrates that he's willing to lie for political expediency. So why not then, too?

Why is this important to the frum Jew? Well, it shouldn't be, really, except that everyone always makes such a big deal about Clinton -- who's not running, by the way -- and how he mislead everyone w/r/t the Monica thing. Fact is, it makes more sense, and bothers me less, that someone would lie about cheating on their wife in order to avoid the consequences of that failure than it does that someone would lie about intelligence in order to engage in a hostile act for ulterior (if not nefarious) purposes.

But let's set that aside. Let's pretend, for a minute, that President Bush was fooled, and that WMD's and the violation of UN Resolutions is enough to validate a unilateral invasion of a middle-eastern country. Can anyone think of another middle-eastern country, with a known nuclear arsenal and a tendency to violate UN Resolutions? Maybe a small one, surrounded by enemies? Is it real? No, it's Israel. So let's just think about the precedents we set.

More importantly, though, as a practical matter, the effect of the Iraq war has been twofold. First, it's made Iraq a totally unstable area, chock full o'terrorists and arms and actual weapons of maybe not mass but pretty close destruction. And if you think those weapons will stay pointed at America for too long, just think about the distance between Baghdad and D.C., as opposed to the distance between Baghdad and Jerusalem.

Second, what's the past tense of "I run?" Oh yeah, IRAN. (And you can bet that thing won't reach D.C., either, but has a pretty good shot at getting to Jerusalem.)

Running into Iraq without a plan for the peace has essentially strengthened one of the big countries that hates Jews everywhere more than Iraq did. Sure Saddam was supporting Palestinian Terrorist Murder-bombers. I'm sure that the slack's been taken up by others among his generous friends. But Saddam was a pretty staunch secularist, and the religious fanatics didn't like him, and they weren't really using Iraq as too much of a base, and he was fighting Iran, which hates Israel worse, loves the religious fanatics more, and is more of a base.

So you can see why maybe it wasn't the best thing for W to go on in there, guns a-blazin'.

What I hear a lot is that President Bush has somehow demonstrated the intestinal fortitude to "stand up" to baddies in the middle east, and this somehow indicates that he will stand up to other evil-doers in the region. On the (fair) assumption that Israel won't be one of said evil-doers and that some of Israel's enemies will be, the argument goes, then it's good to support Bush because he'll help Israel in times of crisis.


You can not reasonably expect that Bush will oppose anything at all short of nuclear detonation done against Israel and the Jews by, say, Saudi Arabia. Or, really, Jordan or Syria or anyone else with any oil.

Yes Bush will be the first to tell you that Israel has the right to exist. But not when it would jeopardize U.S. oil flow. Bush will not support Israel against those enemies.

Proof? Well, Israel could have very easily taken out Iraq's WMD program (if there was one) the way they did the Osirak nuclear reactors the first time around. But (a) there was no intelligence to locate such WMD's (see above) and (b) they were told to stay out of it by . . . Bush. Why? Because it would upset the Arab neighbors.

AND. . . say what you will about Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, there's one thing it got right and no one has argued it: Bush flew the Bin Laden family out of the US while everyone else was still grounded.

I'm saying that I think pointing to Bush's actions in Iraq as indicative of a higher moral imperative -- one which could somehow serve the interests of Israel or the Jews generally -- is a mistake.

Which brings us to a brief excursion on:

Issue Three: Israel

Most of this question folds into the Iraq issues above. But a few things need to be said.

First of all, any frum Jew has to recognize the special hashgocha pratis (divine providence) exercised by Hashem over what goes on in that chunk of the planet. I'm not saying don't do the hishtadlus, but you have to have a little faith on this one.

Second of all, the Israel lobby in the U.S. is very very strong. People are going on and on about how Kerry will sell out Israel, but it's just not true. His platform statement is very clearly in support of Israel. Even if you believe the absolute worst about Kerry, you have to realize that it is not politically expedient in this country to sell out Israel.

Third -- Kerry supports moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, what his website calls "Israel's indisputable capital." This move would be an immeasurable political statement, and would change the status of Jerusalem in U.S. law, as well.

Bush has had four years to make a similar move. Nothing so far.

Finally, and this touches a little on the first point. Bush is an evangelical Christian, and his policies are very often reflective of that point of view. Evangelical Christians are big supporters of Israel, true, and on an individual level that's great. But as a policy matter Bush is waiting for JC to come and "save" us, for without him we're all going to hell. So it makes me worry to think about what his policies will be towards Israel if he sees "end times" coming.

Issue Four: Abortion

Basically the abortion argument is the same as the gay marriage argument: A Torah value is not necessarily a good Secular Law.

I'm not going to lie to you here, though; the abortion argument is much harder to make, because the Torah clearly sees abortion as just a teeny-tiny step below outright murder.[fn2] And it's clear that there's no problem outlawing regular murder, even though that's a Torah prohibition, too.
[fn2:] Before I get a boatload of angry emails, etc., a side trip for the halachically informed: If the fetus in utero was totally, 100% absolutely a life-in-being then even where the mother's life was in danger the abortion would be disallowed because it would be equivalent to when the fetus has already been partially born -- the mother's a rodef to the baby, the baby's a rodef to the mother, and we have to let Hashem make the choice. The fact is that when the fetus is in utero and threatens the mother's life -- but it would still be viable if extracted then even if that would cost the mother's life, we allow the abortion. So the Torah must see killing the fetus as less of a problem (albeit only a tiny bit less of a problem) than killing the mother. Otherwise, of course, it's a life in all respects. As mentioned in the administrative section, I'm going to send this to the OU or Aguda or something. If they have any response to this footnote I'll definitely include it.
The point is, just because it's a Torah prohibition doesn't mean it should be a law -- but just because it's a Torah prohibition doesn't mean it shouldn't be a law, either.

So the abortion question is harder.

But still. . . it's a question of the authority of government and what kind of power you want to give it.

ALSO, I would point out that Bush and friends want an abortion ban that extends to situations where the mother's life is in danger. Which flies directly in the face of Torah values.

Issue Five: The Economy:

This last point isn't really so much about being a frum Jew as it is just a final point related to being a father. I'm only going to mention it, because I want to it's my blog. And also because I think it's important. I'm not going into it in detail because, quite honestly, I'm tired and want to put this up before I go to bed. Also, since it doesn't have both Frum and Father subject relevance, I can't justify going this far off topic.

Even without the war costs, Bush has squandered what was the biggest surplus we'd had in a long time, if not ever. Bush has put us in a deficit so deep that even Kerry's not promising to get us out of it, just to pull us out as much as he can. If I had done to my personal finances what Bush has done to this country, I would be too ashamed to show my face in my own hometown, let alone ask for more money, or more time in charge of the public fisc.

Come to think of it, there is a Torah aspect to this discussion, and it's Yoseph again. During the seven fat years, you save. During the seven lean years, you use those savings to survive.

Kerry is accused of being a tax-and-spend liberal. But Bush is a spend-and-spend Republican. His policies essentially look at the fat years as a time to spend, to make them fatter. We've seen Bush's policies before, when they were called Reagonomics, and they didn't work then, either.

I will live off the fat of these Bush policies. Or maybe not me, since the tax cuts don't go down that low, but people I know might.

But Rachel will pay for these expenditures.

And when I think of it that way, it makes no sense. I would happily give up everything I own today if I could guarantee that Rachel would have no financial worries when she grows up.

But the policies of this administration have done exactly the opposite. Today gets, Tomorrow pays. But tomorrow is my little girl, and somehow I'm saddling her with my debt. While I type these words I have the baby monitor on in my office; I can hear her rustling in her sleep, I can hear her breathing.

And I can't bring myself to agree to the idea that she will be poor so I can be comfortable.

What I didn't talk about:

Let's see . . .

  • The Economy:

    • Tax Cuts

    • Unemployment!

    • Social Security

  • Civil Rights:

    • the Gitmo fiasco,

    • how this administration's treating CITIZENS who it accuses of being enemy combatants

    • The PATRIOT act, and do you remember what privacy was,

    • Abu Gharib -- the guy who gets to wear a flight suit and stand on the deck with the "Mission Accomplished" sign? That's the guy who should take the heat for the treatment of prisoners at Abu Gharib.

  • Domestic National Security

    • Our entirely permeable borders

    • Nuclear fuel around the world

  • No Child Left Behind -- the great unfunded mandate that's leaving everyone behind

  • Health Insurance

  • The Environment

  • Censorship, or: if you can shut up Howard Stern, why not JM in the AM?

  • The Assault Weapons not-a-Ban-anymore. Hello!? Republican President, Republican Legilature, and they couldn't do this. You gon' a-huntin bambi with that fully-automatic AK, yoy comin back with a deer full of bullets. Unless of course you're not hunting bambi. [added 10/26/2004]

Just wanted to put it out there.

One paragraph to go!

Whew. . . would you believe that's the short version? Anyway, that's it Thanks for your time, and good night. Either way you're going to vote, I hope you'll all come out on November 2nd. Though, I admit, I hope it more if you're going to vote for Kerry. If you're going to vote for Bush, you can stay home if you want.



Blogger Rachel Ann said...

A very well written piece. Thank you for your point of view. I appreaciate your candor, and the lack of rancor. I wish most of these discussions, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the poster/commentartor, were as reasoned and as courteous as this one.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate such a clear look at what is going on politically from such a different perspective. I enjoy the clarity of your writing and your ability to lay out all of your reasoning so it is understandable. This is a much better approach than the political rants that do not have reason to back them up.


10:49 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Well-said, Frum Dad.

It happens that I agree with you, so you didn't need to convince me of these things; but I'm still impressed with how reasoned and cogent this argument is, because those are rare qualities in online political discourse.

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent, FrumDad; thanks for putting these issues into this language.

2:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is fantastic.

Bread and Roses

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frumdad -- great post!

As a fellow frum Kerry backer, I encourage anyone who wants to read more on the same subject, especially undecided voters, to visit The name says it all.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi FrumDad,

Nice post. I don't agree with much of it, but you reason well. I'm not going to tackle your entire post; my response would be too long. But I do think it's worthwhile to address the "Iraq" issue. As you said yourself, election 2004 seems to be one of the most momentous events in history. Let's face it: the war on terror is more important, relatively, than the abortion issue, which has been simmering for decades.
I highly recommend that you head over to the "Commentary" website and grab an article from the September issue by Norman Podhoretz. As far as I'm concerned, it should be required reading for all voters.
When you understand the Bush doctrine, you'll see that the war in Iraq is not a diversion from the War on Terror, but an intrinsic part of the plan. The Bush doctrine is basically composed of 3 parts.

First, the moral attitude: there is such a thing as good and evil. Also, America is good, while terrorists are evil. This may not come as a shock to frum Jews, but is actually quite shocking to leading "intellectuals." This was articulated in Bush's speech about the axis of evil.

Second, that terror is not the product of individual psychotics, but agents of various organizations that depend on government sponsorship. America will no longer treat terror as a crime, but act to drain the festering swamps that harbor terrorists. Afganistan was asked to hand over the Taliban, but refused. Of course, America has many instruments at its disposal - economic (Syria), diplomatic (Libya), etc. But war is an option to attack those that support terror.

Third (and I assume you won't like this), America has the right to preempt. Unfortunately, the old paradigm of deterrence means nothing to terrorists. And containment is not possible when dictators with great resources can deliver WMD to their terrorist allies. I'll admit that this is a somewhat dangerous proposition. But the realities of the War on Terror dictate its necessity.

Unfortunately, I feel that the Dems have succeeded in turning the war on Iraq into a sole "WMD issue." Nothing could be further from the truth. WMD was not the only reason for the war, and not even the major one. Iraq had an unbalanced dictator who had proved his hostile intentions (Kuwait, the Kurds, etc), and supported terrorism. Whether or not he was directly involved in 9/11 is immaterial. The world, and certainly America, is a safer place without him.

Liberals fault Bush for listening to "shady intelligence" about Iraq. Yet in literally the same breath, they demand that he take the blame for not preventing 9/11 by taking action on this same shady intelligence. Well, is the president supposed to react or not?
Bush is the only candidate with the moral clarity to win the War on Terror. Kerry will make nice with the world in the short term, and sell out our children in the long.

R. Brand

7:39 PM  
Blogger Marti said...

FrumDad, very well said. So encouraging to know that there are like-minded ‘frummies’ out there. My two cents on the abortion issue: The nuances you bring up in your footnote regarding the halachic stance of a fetus only scratch the surface of Jewish debate and responsa on this topic. Secular law could never succeed in being as finely nuanced as halacha. The decision to have an abortion should be between a woman, her Rabbi and her doctor. As you mentioned, the partial-birth abortion ban already encroaches on a woman’s ability to have an abortion when her life is in danger – a scenario in which halacha would often mandate an abortion. I agree with you – attempting to fuse Torah values and secular law will ultimately impinge upon our freedoms instead of expanding them.

Any other thoughts anyone? Good debate happening at

9:02 AM  
Blogger The Lioness said...

Well done, wonderful, refreshing post! It's brilliant to see a frum Jew taking such a stand. Bush IS a liar and more than a bit dumb and quite frankly it is scary to think of our fates - the US President impacts more than just the US you know - in the hands of such an individual. Plus, the US are now paying a big price for past mistakes and WE ALL suffer from it, regardless of nationality. Bin Laden was trained and armed BY THE US while fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Saddam was supported BY THE US so he could fight the Ayatollahs in Iran. Donald Rumsfeld, representing Reagan, met w him in Baghdad in 1983, the US gave him the technique and assistance for producing chemical weapons such as anthrax. "The White House and the State Department ordered the Export-Import Bank to finance the war for Iraq" and before diplomatic relations were resumed between the two countries. This is all from an interview w a former FBI agent, I can send the link to those who want it.

Frum Dad, it truly was a pleasure to read you.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Pgh Femme said...

Beautifully done. As a lesbian agnostic, it was really refreshing to read someone of faith distinguishing between what they believe and what should be legislated.

You say: "Every one of us should be incredibly leery of granting broad powers of this sort to the government just because we happen to agree with the particular exercise of that power. Every one of us should understand that the next time that power will be exercised it will most likely be in a manner with which we do not agree, in a manner which will, in fact be directed against us."

A few years ago a lesbian feminist activist (Andrea Dworkin) got together with some Christian activists and politicians and helped author and orchestrate a ban on pornography in a few cities in the US and Canada. Within months gay and lesbian books were being confiscated at the border. It is always a slippery slope to grant broad powers.

Thanks for your well-reasoned yet obviously heartfelt post. I'm tired of the mudslinging.

9:26 PM  
Blogger D said...

I won't go into the 'secular' arguments, because I don't disagree on the Bin Laden family or the economy.
Bush is not a saint, and he comes from very rotten stock. No argument there.

You're plain wrong on the WMD/Iraq issue. Go here
for the complete Duelfer report, and the key findings. There may well have been no WMD's in Iraq at the time of the invasion (although there is some question of some of them having been transported to Syria), but it is very clear that Saddam was capable of starting production and having them at his disposal within weeks or certainly months.

Watching you rationalize your stand on gay marriage or abortion would be funny if it wasn't so sad. You cannot have it both ways, be either an orthodox Jew or an atheist liberal. You should have been a lawyer, but you do not succeed in covering up a few basic points: According to Tenach, homosexuality is wrong (and I'm putting it mildly here, the word is abomination). To subsequently argue that it's wrong to give the government the power to forbid gay marriage is to turn the argument upside down. Government ALREADY decides who can marry and who cannot. If that sanity check were removed, who's to prevent the next person from wanting to marry 2 men? or 20? Or his horse? Or a child of 5 (like Mohammed did)? After all, the Government should NOT be allowed to interfere? This argument makes no sense. And it would in fact affect all laws, civil and penal.

Abortion is wrong. When you conjure up the one situation where it might conceivably be allowed, you prove nothing. Abortion in the US is used as form of contraception, and that is horrific. Abortion because of medical necessity is a rare exception, and is of course acceptable. A dishonest argument to emphasize the medically necessary abortion, while ignoring the actual 98% of all abortions, performed because people can't be bothered to use real contraceptives such as the pill or condoms or both.

And Kerry? Where Israel is concerned, Kerry has an impeccable voting record in the US senate. He says nearly all the right things, too (But then, he is to be found on nearly all sides of all issues, so there goes credibility).
Except he once had a slip of the tongue on the Fence, saying "we don't need another barrier to peace". Nice going. The Israeli response to stopping suicide bombers is to erect a fence. The US should be so restrained. And this from a man who boasts about killing people in a far away country where he had no business to begin with.
And Kerry wants to be friends with France, and Europe, and the UN. That he wants this is not a matter of debate.
Well, guess what. You CAN be a friend of these three despicable entities. You pay a price (and the price is Israel), but there you have it.
Kerry's been quoted as saying he'll put more pressure on Israel. Just what the doctor ordered. MORE pressure to do things that are BAD for Israel. Pressure from the one country that Israel has a hard time resisting.

No, people like you worry me more than Al-Zarqawi. Because YOU should have your issues and priorites straight. Because YOU sound like a reasonable man, and many will find your arguments appealing, perhaps even convincing.
When you're really just confused, and happen to have an intellect at your disposal to rationalize away your moral and religious floundering.

It's like many people want the Pope to let up on the use of condoms, because using them will prevent the spread of AIDS. First of all, if you're a Catholic, don't complain about the rules. They're 2000 years old, if you don't like them start a new religion, but don't try to change the current one. It is what it is (I happen to think it's bullshit but I accept it for what it is). If you go and change it, it is no longer Catholicism. You cannot be a practising gay man and a good Catholic. Or a good Jew. You cannot have sex outside of marriage and be a good Catholic. If you don't like it, don't be Catholic.
If you don't want AIDS but don't use a condom, don't blame the Pope when you get ill. DON'T HAVE SEX! Very safe, and very Catholic (or Jewish)! Wait until married, screw just the one person (check each other out just to be safe) and all will be well. No need to 'adjust' your respective religion there.
Why the point about the Pope? Don't try to argue away what is clearly stated in the respective rulebooks. For an orthodox Jew it should be clear: Homosexuality is wrong, certainly gay men married is very wrong, and I will not support that. It's really not that difficult.

A basic theme in your arguments is to make a distinction between secular and religious laws. Clearly the distinction exists, and in fact the two sets of law are often mutually exclusive.
But there needs to be no discussion here, no argument, except the one within yourself.
I am not a religious person, so for me the choice is easy and clear: Religious laws do not apply to me and are in no way a factor in my life.
You appear to want to have it both ways, trying to reconcile the Torah with 21st century daily life in the US. I am no scholar of the Bible, but know enough to be sure this can't be done. Either you believe in Leviticus, or you are ok with two men getting married. Not both. And voting to allow gay marriage because you think Government shouldn't have the right to forbid it, while being personally AGAINST such a marriage, what is that? I think it's a lie. Are you saying you'd vote against your own personal (strongly held, I assume) beliefs because of some abstract concept? Bullshit. I think you DON'T agree with Leviticus, in which case your position becomes much easier to understand. You really HAVE no problem with gay marriage, but are officially an orthodox Jew who needs to somehow explain how this is possible. You can't very well say: "Leviticus is non-sense", so you try and rationalize your position.
Didn't work well for me. You're not doing anyone a favour by supporting your position with arguments like these. Certainly, you are not doing yourself a favour by being intellectually dishonest.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Dem's spin after the Republican convention was: "you didn't hear the name Osama Bin Ladin once."


Because in the Democtratic convention, I didn't hear the country "Israel" once. IIRC, all the speeches can be downloaded from iTunes and probably, too.

Point being, I guess Israel is the the Democrats as Osama is to the Republicans.

Kerry is too busy to be bothered with Jews while he's running around seeking the votes of people who wish for the destruction of Israel.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely excellent post, Frum Dad.


9:12 PM  
Blogger TheDevilIsInTheDetails said...

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12:34 AM  
Blogger Dennis Day said...

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3:59 PM  

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