True to form, Barack Obama made his statement on the passing of former Israeli Prime minister Shimon Peres, a pivotal figure in the country’s history from its 1948 founding through his service as president just two years ago, all about himself–from start to finish.
The second sentence in the first paragraph of Obama’s official pronouncement referred to “my friend Shimon,” even though, unlike Bill Clinton and the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the two men were not close and had an entirely perfunctory relationship.
The next paragraph followed the same format. Obama paid tribute to Peres in the first sentence but pivoted to the far more important matter of himself in the second. “Tonight, Michelle and I join people across Israel, the United States and around the world in honoring the extraordinary life of our dear friend Shimon Peres—a Founding Father of the State of Israel and a statesman whose commitment to Israel’s security and pursuit of peace was rooted in his own unshakeable moral foundation and unflagging optimism.”
The third paragraph was even more self-centered. “I will always be grateful that I was able to call Shimon my friend,” it started. “I first visited him in Jerusalem when I was a senator, and when I asked for his advice, he told me that while people often say that the future belongs to the young, it’s the present that really belongs to the young. ‘Leave the future to me,’ he said, ‘I have time.’”
After managing to stop talking about himself only long enough to say Peres’s adage was “right” Obama returned to himself. “Whether it was during our conversations in the Oval Office, walking together through Yad Vashem, or when I presented him with America’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, Shimon always looked to the future.”
All that merited specific mention but not Peres’s central role in hammering out the formal peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians known as the Oslo Accords? Apparently so, since Bill Clinton not Obama was president when the Oslo Accords were signed at the White House in 1993.
Remarkably, in the next two paragraphs Obama managed to avoid any specific self-references.
Obama, who has been more hostile to Israel than any president since Jimmy Carter, concluded his statement by alluding to his supposed special relationship with Peres.
“A light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever. Shimon Peres was a soldier for Israel, for the Jewish people, for justice, for peace, and for the belief that we can be true to our best selves – to the very end of our time on Earth, and in the legacy that we leave to others. For the gift of his friendship and the example of his leadership, todah rabah, Shimon.”
Total direct self-references: 14 in just five paragraphs. Compare that to Bill Clinton mentioning himself 10 times in his 10 paragraph eulogy of Yitzhak Rabin following his assassination in 1995.
Clinton and Obama are both expected to attend Peres’s funeral on Friday. Take a wild guess who is going to mention himself more.