"If you had the Uzi all the time, why didn't you use it before?" he was asked.
"I can't do this unless I am angry," he replied.
BARACK OBAMA's debating performance reminds me of this joke. At the first confrontation he was listless and lifeless. He just wanted the silly thing to end.
During the second debate, he was a changed man. Energetic. Aggressive. Decisive. In short: angry.
When the confrontation started, it was 3 a.m. in Israel. I could have recorded it and watched it later. But I was unable to wait. My curiosity got the better of me.
Of course, this whole performance is silly. There is no connection at all between talent as a debater and the ability to lead a nation. You can be an outstanding polemicist and unable to conduct a rational policy. Israelis have only to look at Binyamin Netanyahu. You can be a purposeful leader, and fail utterly at expressing yourself. YItzhak Rabin, for example.
Yet Americans insist that their leaders demonstrate their prowess as debaters as a condition for being elected. It somehow reminds one of the single combats of antiquity, when each side chose a champion and the two tried to kill each other, in place of mutual mass slaughter. David and Goliath spring to mind. It's certainly more humane.
THE RHETORIC was not directed at the mass of voters. As has been said before, it was aimed at the "Undecideds," a special class of people. The title is supposed to confer some kind of distinction. For me it makes more sense as an expression of contempt. If you haven't decided yet, three weeks before the gong sounds, is that something to brag about?
At this stage of the game, both candidates must be very careful not to antagonize anyone. Which means, of course, that they cannot afford to present any definite, clear cut, opinion on anything, except motherhood and apple pie -- or, in Israel, Zionism and gefilte fish.
You must beware of any new idea. God forbid. New ideas create enemies. You may impress a few voters, but most likely you will drive away many more. The trick is to express generalities forcefully.
Gun ownership, for example. Guns kill. In strictest confidence, I might disclose to you that guns are produced for this very purpose. Since you are not likely to be kidnapped by cannibals, why for God's sake keep an Uzi in your cupboard? To keep the Bad Injuns away?
Yet even Obama skirted the issue. He did not dare to come out with an unqualified demand to put an end to this nuisance altogether. You don't mess with the gun lobby. Almost like the pro-Israel lobby. Mitt Romney cited his experience in bringing pro-gun and anti-gun people together to work out a compromise. Like: instead of 10 children with assault rifles shooting up their schoolmates, only five per year.
I MUST admit that I didn't quite understand the bitter quarrel about the Benghazi incident. Perhaps you need an American mind to grasp it. My primitive Israeli head just doesn't get it.
Was it a simple terrorist attack, or did the terrorists use a protest gathering for cover? Why the hell does that matter? Why should the President have bothered to falsify the picture this or that way? Israelis know from long experience that after a botched rescue attempt, security services always lie. It's in their nature. No president can change that.
The idea that any country can protect its hundreds of embassies and consulates around the world against all possible types of attack is childish. Especially if you cut their security budget.