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WTF Friday: The End of the World as We Know It

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Rick Perry with Chuck Norris
Patrick Michels
Noted men of peace Rick Perry and Chuck Norris

These are dangerous times. Disorder afflicts all corners of the world. There’s contagion, and many different kinds of war. The Slavic menace rises in the East. This is a time for men—Texas men—to rise to the occasion.

1) To run for president, Gov. Rick Perry needs foreign policy credentials, and though his pilgrimages to California may count as such within Texas, they do not, unfortunately for him, matter much to the rest of the country. But Perry has a longstanding interest in a region of the world that has been in the news lately. So he summoned up his office’s communications staff and associated interns for a new mission. This was the best idea anyone had ever had. Rick Perry would give his take on the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The ensuing editorial in Politico Magazine, entitled “Stand With Israel,” will do just fine for its intended purpose. There’s a hell of a lot of money and support for anyone in the Republican presidential primary who strikes the right tone on Israel—Perry tried to win that crowd in 2011, and he’ll do so again this time, especially with comparative squishes like Rand Paul and Chris Christie also in the running. But if you were to give this thing the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s supposed to be more than just pablum, you would be disappointed. The very first paragraph contains two odd misconceptions:

For Israelis, at any given moment a missile might be detected, rocketing toward a residential neighborhood; a bomber might detonate him or herself in a crowded public place; and terrorists sent by Hamas might infiltrate their borders through secret tunnels to kidnap or kill their children.

Hamas certainly uses rockets—but periodic suicide bombings haven’t really been a fact of “any given moment” in Israeli life for years. Suicide bombings targeting civilian areas peaked in 2002, and the last fatal one was in 2008. The last sentence is a slightly oblique reference to the kidnapping and murder of three students in the West Bank: It precipitated the current conflict. But even Israeli intelligence now doubts Hamas was responsible for the murders.

In fairness, Perry balances his hawkish analysis with compassion for the long-suffering people of the Gaza Strip, pawns of a brutal and bloody game.

I’ve visited with families who were afraid to let their children play outside, and seen the fortified playgrounds where they can go. I’ve seen the rubble of structures brought down by missile strikes and looked in the eyes of people who live with the threat of violence day-in and day-out.

Kidding, he’s talking about Israelis. And he has stern words for anyone who thinks shelling United Nations-run schools packed with families fleeing violence is probably not O.K.:

Thousands of miles away, it might be convenient to criticize Israel for having the temerity to defend itself against these murderous terrorist attacks.

But we shouldn’t. Because the stakes are high:

The conflict between Hamas and Israel is merely one part of a much-larger conflict, one with far-ranging implications that can affect the lives of every person on the globe.

That’s because of… China?

Any equivocation or perceived weakness on our part will be noticed immediately not just in Tehran, but in Moscow and Beijing as well. It can only help usher in a new nuclear arms race, one that holds the potential of becoming infinitely more frightening than the one the free world endured decades ago. Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups have demonstrated time and again that they have no regard for human life – Israeli, Palestinian or American. The possibility of individuals like that gaining access to a nuclear weapon is something we simply cannot allow.

He condemns the United States for “moving closer to Turkey and Qatar than to our traditional allies,” in recent negotiations. That’s kind of a weird thing to say, seeing as Turkey is one of our oldest allies in the Middle East and a member of NATO, and Qatar is home to one of the most important American military facilities in the world.

If it seems like Perry has not been getting particularly good information on the conflict, that might be because he’s been pretty bad at picking friends. In the run up to his 2012 race, he was appearing at public events with full-on nut job Danny Danon, then a member of the Israeli Knesset and later a deputy defense minister. Danon was canned by the pretty right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few weeks ago for being, essentially, an out-of-control lunatic. He once called African refugees in Israel a “national plague” and wants Israel to unilaterally annex Palestinian land.

So Perry’s getting bad foreign policy advice, and he hasn’t demonstrated any ability to make up his own mind. And he’s running for president soon. To paraphrase a governor I know, the possibility of an individual like that gaining access to a nuclear weapon is something we simply cannot allow.

2) But Perry’s not the only Texas Republican who’s getting ready to save the world: There’s also state Rep. Scott Turner, who’s been traveling across Texas as part of his quixotic Empower Texans-backed campaign to win popular support in his race for speaker of the Texas House, even though people’s votes don’t matter (the speaker is selected by other reps.) The whole thing has been pretty weird.

Anyway, he was in Fredericksburg recently to explain how he feels about road funding diversions or whatever, and he decided to go BIG. Here’s how he opened:

Tel Aviv, Hamas, Israel, Gaza, you know, Malaysia flights, jet flights being shot out of the air, you know, what in the world is going on? A lot of people live in a hopeless situation. Anxiety is running rampant. Fear. Discouragement.

O.K. man, we got these people suitably freaked out. Now pull them in:

But hopefully tonight in this brief time that we have together, it’s my prayer that I can encourage you. And let you know that we’re not in a hopeless situation. Because myself and a few others around Texas and around the country are standing up for you. And it’s not hard—I mean, it’s not easy. It’s a very hard battle to fight.

Is Turner for or against Malaysia flights? The world wonders. And what’s Turner got planned to alleviate anxiety in East Jerusalem? Who are these “few others?” Is Turner part of a gang of conflict-mediating superheroes? If so, why is he in Fredericksburg right now? Seems like a bad use of time, is all.

3) In Washington this week, yet another Texan helped save the world. Ted Cruz, the guy who once saved the world from not being able to listen to him read Green Eggs & Ham on the Senate floor, and also saved women at Yale from not being able to look at him stroll up and down the corridors in a paisley bathrobe, saved the world this week from—a Republican-drafted border security bill. Wait, what?

Cruz’s theatrics are taking place in an ever-tightening series of concentric circles. His targets have shrunk: He used to mess with President Obama, but now he’s mostly messing with Republican House Speaker John Boehner, which seems like a pretty weird move. And kinda mean, given Boehner’s propensity for crying. You do you, Ted.

The bill collapsed at the last minute. Cruz was given credit, as he’d been rallying representatives against the bill. Republicans were forced to ask President Obama to take executive action on the border crisis, even though they’re suing him for taking executive action elsewhere. A reporter asked Cruz if he was responsible for Boehner’s humiliating day:

“The suggestion by some that House members are unable to stand up and fight for their own conservative principles is offensive and belittling to House conservatives,” he added. “They know what they believe and it would be absurd for anyone to try to tell them what to think.”

That’s the sound of a grown man petting other grown men on the head. He’s the chess player to Perry’s checkers player, except his main goal seems to be to make his team lose all the time. Yep, 2016 is going to be a hell of a year.

Christopher Hooks joined the Observer in 2014. Previously, he was a freelance journalist in Austin, where he grew up. His work has appeared in Politico Magazine, Slate, and Texas Monthly, among others. He graduated from The New School in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in history.

  • Asher B. Garber

    The worst part about supporting Israel are all the tough talking GOPpers who think that it’s crazy for any Jew to support the Democratic party. I would like to add some thoughts to the article.

    Re Bombing of UN schools: Obviously an atrocious act, but the first one was definitely a Hamas rocket and not Israeli missile. The second one may very well have been the same as UN schools have (unwittingly or otherwise) become missile silos for Hamas. The UN has never been receptive to Israel’s efforts to save themselves, so they leave me feeling skeptical.

    Re Drop in suicide bombers: The main reason for this is the West Bank barrier, criticized by those who doubt the severity of its service as the Apartheid Wall. Before the wall was built a pizzeria, a dance club, a wedding hall, a shopping mall, a college cafeteria, and many bus lines were places of suicide bombers. These bombs, not that many people care, happened to be filled with rat poison laced ball bearings and metal shears, and towards the end of the program, the bombers themselves injected with Hep A, B, C and HIV viruses. It’s true.

    Re Kidnappings: Gilad Shalit was the first kidnapping victim. He was taken from inside Israel via an underground tunnel and was kept by Hamas for 5 years with no outside contact. Yet another example of how Hamas treats the “rules of war”, but that’s besides the point. Hamas got a 1000 prisoners exchanged for Shalit’s release, and then went on to publicly threaten Israel with more kidnappings. The day the 3 teens were kidnapped, both Fatah (Palestinian Authority) and Hamas publicly praised the kidnappings, with Fatah’s Facebook page showing a cartoon of 3 rats in a trap. The threat is real, and nothing to be laughed at. Why look what happened this morning (8/1) when the Humanitarian truce was broken 30 minutes in. Suicide bomber and a kidnapping.

    I can support Israel and not toe the Sheldon Adelson line. I can be a believer in the right for Israel to exist, and notice how this is an existential war that only Israel seems to be facing, and has been facing for many decades. Hamas is evil. They will not go away without a fight to the finish, I’m afraid. Maybe the best thing to do is move folks into the Sinai and build some comfortable refugee camps, because Israel is going to have to raze that place of those tunnels and the infrastructure. The Palestinians deserve a state and their autonomy, but they’re not going to get it by the actions of a lawless gang of thugs.

    • Christopher Hooks

      “Maybe the best thing to do is move folks into the Sinai and build some comfortable refugee camps, because Israel is going to have to raze that place of those tunnels and the infrastructure.”

      There’s a name for that: It’s called “ethnic cleansing.”

      • Asher B. Garber

        Not necessarily, Chris. I’m just racking my brain trying to think what can give the Palestinians a state and end this war from Hamas. If you think Hamas is behaving in logical fashion, or is somehow equivalent to Israel in terms of responsibility for this war, then you’re not giving any credence to their words and actions over the past 10 years.

        • 1bimbo

          hooks thinks like a national progressive socialist liberal democrat on the israel/hamas issue because he was first reared in the bowels of weirdo austin and then at a looney lefty school in greenwich village in new york.. 100% of the writers for this website are fringe people who have no semblance of familiarity with the majority of people in texas nor do they represent the spirit of the state.. thank gawd, because it would be embarrassing if a true texan advocated for terrorists

          • Asher B. Garber

            Dude. Lay off the crack pipe. Better yet, stop reading this website if it bothers you so much.

          • 1bimbo

            you seem more bothered by my comments.. then again the truth really bothers looney liberals

      • Asher B. Garber

        Those tunnels are bad news. They aren’t legal by any stretch of the imagination. This is what needs to be rid of. Would you rather it happen in the midst of the population or moving the population away so that it can happen? You know, in order for their to be peace, people need to see the concern and work together to solve it. So what would you do?

      • 1bimbo

        how about some ‘violence cleansing’ then.. cleanse the region of the violent hamas terrorists

      • Asher B. Garber

        It’s not called ethnic cleansing since I’m 1. not advocating a genocide; and 2. am interested in moving people away from a combat zone.

        I will say this about your comment and those who agree with it. Nothing Israel does will satisfy you. The separation wall which saved countless lives is an Apartheid wall. The legal and internationally recognized blockade of Gaza is some sort of Occupation. And now this war, based completely on rocket fire into Israel from Gaza, is being fought incorrectly. But you don’t have recommendations on what Israel should do (other than take those missiles in the ass). You don’t even want to discuss anything. You just jump down people’s throats with simplistic definitions that, really, don’t apply.

        But whatever. Peace in the Middle East isn’t your gig. You’re not interested in it because that would mean actually listening to the side you prefer to castigate and belittle. There are real issues, and you’d rather just bark from the sidelines. Can’t say I’m surprised.

        • Christopher Hooks

          I’m not trying to start a debate on this because I don’t think it will be productive, but I’ll just say that ethnic cleansing doesn’t have to involve killing. It can simply be the eviction of a people from their land.

          Please refrain from attributing beliefs to me which I do not hold and have not articulated.

  • GOP Julie

    So what, pray tell, has Mr. “I’m going to calm the seas” done to successfully resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or to halt decades long illegal crossings at our border? After all, isn’t that why he ran for president? Isn’t that why he gets paid the big bucks?

    • 1bimbo

      ‘This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.’ –barack obama, june 2008

      classic