Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

For Michigan?!

I ask the reader’s forbearance. The point I want to make requires a bit of an introduction. I could begin with the quotation that is the center of this essay, but I think (and hope) it will be more effective with a bit of historical background.

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Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) is portrayed in Robert Bolt’s play A Man For All Seasons as a man of unwavering integrity and courage (he doesn’t emerge quite as heroic in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, but history, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder). In the play, and the brilliant Fred Zinneman movie, More sacrifices the friendship of King Henry VIII, the safety of his family, and, ultimately, his own life, because he refuses to betray his beliefs and his conscience. 

Henry wants to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled so he can marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope refuses to cooperate. Henry asks More to legitimize, with his support, the annulment and the marriage, by affirming the King’s supreme power in religious affairs. More, a devout Catholic, demurs. Henry thinks that the refusal is tantamount to treason, as he will be diminished in the eyes of the English people, who may not support his break from the Church. But Sir Thomas refuses to confer his approval, or any legitimacy, on the actions of the King.

More is careful, however, not to say anything that could be used as evidence of treason. He simply refuses to take the Oath of Succession, which rejects papal supremacy. His silence cannot condemn him, so long as he utters no treasonous statement. Knowing this, one of the King’s men, perhaps Cromwell, the King’s chief minister, bribes an ambitious man named Richard Rich to testify falsely that More disputed the power of Parliament to enact the law. As a result of Rich’s false testimony, More is sentenced to death.

After Rich perjures himself, More, realizing that he is “a dead man,” notices that Rich is wearing a chain of office, and asks what it is. He is informed that Rich has been appointed Attorney General for Wales.

More says, “Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. . . . But for Wales?!”

[Do yourself a favor. Google: “Rich’s Perjury Scene A Man for All Seasons”–to see how contempt may be conveyed in three words by a great actor like Paul Scofield, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance.]

All this came immediately to mind when I saw Joe Biden–who had eloquently expressed his revulsion for the barbaric terrorism of Hamas, traveled to Israel to pledge his support, sworn that no humanitarian aid would be misappropriated by Hamas, declared that there must be no ceasefire until the hostages were returned and Hamas totally defeated–reverse his principled stance because some Arab voters in Dearborn, Michigan, threatened to vote uncommitted in the upcoming primary election.

Suddenly, Israel’s measured and appropriate response is “over the top.” Suddenly, reversing decades of US policy that a Palestinian State could only come about through negotiation with Israel, reports emerge that the US is considering unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State. Suddenly, the Pompeo doctrine on the legality of settlements in Judea and Samaria is summarily rejected by the Secretary of State.  Suddenly, a pause, or ceasefire is acceptable even if the hostages have not been returned and Hamas has not been defeated. Suddenly, the necessary military action to complete the job is too much for Biden to support; Israel should not take Rafah.

Why, Joe, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . . But for Michigan?!

The most troubling thing about his pusillanimous betrayal is that it is totally unnecessary. Does he really think that Rashida Tlaib is going to vote for Donald Trump? Or, if a miracle happens, Nikki Haley? After Afghanistan, and Iran, and the wavering on the border, does he not see that his feeble failure to resist and his fecklessness are the wrong traits to be projecting? Does he not know that our enemies see him as weak and irresolute and corrupt? This is the man who used to be known as The Senator From MBNA (the biggest bank in Delaware, that hired Hunter as a $100,000 a year Consultant fresh out of law school and made him a senior vice president at age 28). Does he not understand that a blatantly political flip-flop of this nature reveals him to be nothing more than a hack politician? Influence peddling is one thing; indeed, it’s what we expect from Joe. But this craven surrender in the face of his previous public stand is unlikely to redound to his benefit, even if it garners a few votes in Michigan. 

Biden has sent Jon Finer and Samantha Power and Julie Chavez Rodriguez to genuflect before such unsavory types as Osama Siblani, who “won’t apologize for Hamas firing rockets” and deems the October 7 massacre just one justified measure of resistance. Does he really want to be in bed with these people?

It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . But for Michigan?! 

Sir Thomas More was canonized as a Saint. If Biden persists in selling himself so cheaply, one can only hope that he will be consigned to the dustbins of history.                                                                      

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.
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