White House takes a page out of Sharansky's democracy playbook
THE JERUSALEM POST
Jan. 20, 2005
Nike might have to pay big bucks for Michael Jordan's endorsement, but not Natan Sharansky. He's got the White House doing his promotion free of charge.
Just Tuesday, secretary of state nominee Condoleezza Rice plugged his "town square test" as America's new foreign policy during her opening remarks at the Senate confirmation hearing. "The world should apply what Natan Sharansky calls the 'town square test': if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a 'fear society' has finally won their freedom," she said.
Later that day, CNN broadcast an interview with US President George W. Bush in which Senior White House Correspondent John King mentioned how Sharansky's new book, The Case for Democracy, meshes with the commander-in-chief's own views on promoting democracy.
Bush replied: "This is a book by Natan Sharansky, who is – was imprisoned in the Soviet Union. He's an heroic figure. He's now an Israeli official who talks about freedom and what it means and how freedom can change the globe. And I agree with him. I believed that before I met Natan Sharansky. This is a book that, however, summarizes how I feel. I would urge people to read it."
The free airtime followed actual face time, which both Rice and Bush granted Sharansky soon after the latter's reelection.
The admiration bestowed on Sharansky hasn't been missed by fans and critics. William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, devotes a column in this week's issue to the budding relationship. "The praise is deserved," he writes. "It's good news that the president is so enthusiastic about Sharansky's work. It suggests that, despite all the criticism, and the difficulties, the president remains determined to continue to lead the nation along the basic foreign policy lines he laid down in his first term."
Dana Milbank, in his "White House Notebook" column in the Washington Post, however, devotes his words to outlining Sharansky's "far-right" views. "Those looking for clues about President Bush's second-term policy for the Middle East might be interested to know that, nine days after his reelection victory, the president summoned to the White House an Israeli politician so hawkish that he has accused Ariel Sharon of being soft on the Palestinians," Milbank wrote.
Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, cautions against "extrapolating" too much from the connection between the White House and Sharansky. "Let's remember that this is about Natan Sharansky, not the Likud or the Israeli government," she said.
She said she couldn't assess whether the book had influenced Bush's thinking or merely reflected already formed ideas but noted that there's an obvious confluence between Sharansky's and Bush's ideals.
Sharansky is delighted to see that he has found a receptive audience. He pointed out one of the book's purposes was to "influence the actions of politicians, so it's very gratifying to see that the ideas of this book are so directly adopted."
[ Soviet born Israeli cabinet minister former Deputy Prime Minister and Knesset member Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky served as Minister of Industry and Trade from June 1996-1999. He served as Minister of the Interior from July 1999 until his resignation in July 2000.
In March 2001, Natan Sharansky was appointed Minister of Housing and Construction and Deputy Prime Minister. Sharansky is a cofounder of the right-wing Zionist organization 'One Jerusalem' together with Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith]
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