Commentary Magazine


Topic: Brad Sherman

Campaigning on Iran

Josh Rogin has been all over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias’s claim that Rep. Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill. Rogin has Giannoulias dead to rights:

But according to lawmakers, Congressional staffers, and outside groups who worked closely on the legislation, Kirk was in fact a key advocate for over four years of using gasoline and refined petroleum restrictions to pressure Iran to make concessions regarding its nuclear program.

In fact, Berman worked so closely with Kirk and others on the idea that media reports at the time acknowledged that Berman’s Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, introduced in April 2009, borrowed language from related legislation introduced earlier by Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman.

Even Democratic Congressional staffers gave Kirk credit for leading on the idea of petroleum sanction for Iran. They said that Berman’s bill was clearly built off of Kirk’s work, and criticized Berman for politicizing such a sensitive foreign policy issue.

“On this particular issue, Kirk has been a leader, if not the leader. When you talk about Iran petroleum sanctions, you talk about Mark Kirk,” said one Democratic Hill staffer who worked on the bill.

And if that weren’t enough, Democrat Josh Block, who recently left AIPAC (which championed the sanctions bill) to run a consulting firm with Lanny David, blows Giannoulias out of the water: “There’s no question that Mark Kirk was one of the first, if not the first member of Congress to advocate restricting the flow of gasoline to Iran as a way of pressuring Iran on its nuclear program.”

Yikes. It seems that in an election season, everyone is tough on Iran and pro-Israel. But when you examine candidates’ actual voting records, it’s another story. That is why groups like J Street fear “politicizing” Israel — in other words, holding elected leaders and candidates accountable for their votes, statements, and associations.

Josh Rogin has been all over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias’s claim that Rep. Mark Kirk didn’t have anything to do with the Iran-sanctions bill. Rogin has Giannoulias dead to rights:

But according to lawmakers, Congressional staffers, and outside groups who worked closely on the legislation, Kirk was in fact a key advocate for over four years of using gasoline and refined petroleum restrictions to pressure Iran to make concessions regarding its nuclear program.

In fact, Berman worked so closely with Kirk and others on the idea that media reports at the time acknowledged that Berman’s Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, introduced in April 2009, borrowed language from related legislation introduced earlier by Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman.

Even Democratic Congressional staffers gave Kirk credit for leading on the idea of petroleum sanction for Iran. They said that Berman’s bill was clearly built off of Kirk’s work, and criticized Berman for politicizing such a sensitive foreign policy issue.

“On this particular issue, Kirk has been a leader, if not the leader. When you talk about Iran petroleum sanctions, you talk about Mark Kirk,” said one Democratic Hill staffer who worked on the bill.

And if that weren’t enough, Democrat Josh Block, who recently left AIPAC (which championed the sanctions bill) to run a consulting firm with Lanny David, blows Giannoulias out of the water: “There’s no question that Mark Kirk was one of the first, if not the first member of Congress to advocate restricting the flow of gasoline to Iran as a way of pressuring Iran on its nuclear program.”

Yikes. It seems that in an election season, everyone is tough on Iran and pro-Israel. But when you examine candidates’ actual voting records, it’s another story. That is why groups like J Street fear “politicizing” Israel — in other words, holding elected leaders and candidates accountable for their votes, statements, and associations.

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Plus ça Change Department

There is a move afoot in Congress to legalize Internet gambling by repealing a 2006 law that forbade banks to transmit payments to or from Internet-gambling operators.

The law hasn’t stopped Internet gambling, which, it is estimated, Americans spend $6 billion a year on. There are just too many ways these days — prepaid credit cards, online payment processors such as PayPal, etc. — to transmit money. But the effort to repeal the law does not stem merely from the fact that it doesn’t work. It also comes from the need for tax revenue, which might reach as high as $42 billion over 10 years. According to the Times, “Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said in an interview that the money was an attractive source of financing for other programs. ‘We will not pass an Internet gaming bill,’ Mr. Sherman predicted. ‘We will pass a bill to do something very important, funded by Internet gaming.'”

This is all very reminiscent of an earlier effort to stamp out bad habits among the general population by a means that didn’t work. That effort also was repealed in order not to correct a mistake — being a politician means never having to say you’re sorry — but instead to raise revenue.

Prohibition was supposed to get rid of demon rum so that husbands would go home to their families and not spend their paychecks at the local saloon. What it got us was Al Capone. It proved impossible in a democratic society to prevent the illegal production and distribution of alcohol, which millions in the population saw nothing wrong with. Rum runners imported millions of gallons of illegal alcohol over the border from Canada and by sea. Moonshiners produced millions more. Bootleggers distributed all this efficiently. Lavish bribes corrupted police and local officials, who looked the other way (and often drank themselves). Organized crime received a vast new cash flow and grew exponentially. Commercial disputes were settled in parking lots and alleyways rather than in court, the tommy gun being the means of choice. At least Prohibition produced a rich literary and cinematic genre that now rivals the western in extent. And NASCAR developed out of the souped-up cars used to deliver booze and, if necessary, outrun the police cars chasing them.

But it is axiomatic that it is much easier to pass a law than to repeal it. And it was only when the Great Depression caused unemployment to soar and tax revenues to plummet that the federal government moved to loosen and then repeal the 18th Amendment. Shortly after taking office, Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act, which had given legislative flesh to the constitutional bones of the 18th Amendment. It changed the definition of “intoxicating beverage” from .5 percent alcohol to 3.2 percent. On signing it, FDR — no teetotaler he — said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The brewing industry, moribund since 1920, sprang back to life, hiring thousands of workers in places like St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Congress had already proposed repealing the Amendment (on February 20). Knowing that many state legislatures were firmly in the grip of the “preachers and the bootleggers,” Congress specified that the 21st Amendment be ratified by a special convention in each state instead of by the legislatures, the only time that they have been used to amend the Constitution. Ironically, Utah, dominated by non-drinking Mormons, was the 36th state to ratify, the number needed to put the 21st Amendment into the Constitution. The most calamitous social-engineering experiment in American history was dead, and tax revenues began to flow copiously into federal and state coffers.

There is a move afoot in Congress to legalize Internet gambling by repealing a 2006 law that forbade banks to transmit payments to or from Internet-gambling operators.

The law hasn’t stopped Internet gambling, which, it is estimated, Americans spend $6 billion a year on. There are just too many ways these days — prepaid credit cards, online payment processors such as PayPal, etc. — to transmit money. But the effort to repeal the law does not stem merely from the fact that it doesn’t work. It also comes from the need for tax revenue, which might reach as high as $42 billion over 10 years. According to the Times, “Representative Brad Sherman, Democrat of California, said in an interview that the money was an attractive source of financing for other programs. ‘We will not pass an Internet gaming bill,’ Mr. Sherman predicted. ‘We will pass a bill to do something very important, funded by Internet gaming.'”

This is all very reminiscent of an earlier effort to stamp out bad habits among the general population by a means that didn’t work. That effort also was repealed in order not to correct a mistake — being a politician means never having to say you’re sorry — but instead to raise revenue.

Prohibition was supposed to get rid of demon rum so that husbands would go home to their families and not spend their paychecks at the local saloon. What it got us was Al Capone. It proved impossible in a democratic society to prevent the illegal production and distribution of alcohol, which millions in the population saw nothing wrong with. Rum runners imported millions of gallons of illegal alcohol over the border from Canada and by sea. Moonshiners produced millions more. Bootleggers distributed all this efficiently. Lavish bribes corrupted police and local officials, who looked the other way (and often drank themselves). Organized crime received a vast new cash flow and grew exponentially. Commercial disputes were settled in parking lots and alleyways rather than in court, the tommy gun being the means of choice. At least Prohibition produced a rich literary and cinematic genre that now rivals the western in extent. And NASCAR developed out of the souped-up cars used to deliver booze and, if necessary, outrun the police cars chasing them.

But it is axiomatic that it is much easier to pass a law than to repeal it. And it was only when the Great Depression caused unemployment to soar and tax revenues to plummet that the federal government moved to loosen and then repeal the 18th Amendment. Shortly after taking office, Franklin Roosevelt signed an amendment to the Volstead Act, which had given legislative flesh to the constitutional bones of the 18th Amendment. It changed the definition of “intoxicating beverage” from .5 percent alcohol to 3.2 percent. On signing it, FDR — no teetotaler he — said, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” The brewing industry, moribund since 1920, sprang back to life, hiring thousands of workers in places like St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Congress had already proposed repealing the Amendment (on February 20). Knowing that many state legislatures were firmly in the grip of the “preachers and the bootleggers,” Congress specified that the 21st Amendment be ratified by a special convention in each state instead of by the legislatures, the only time that they have been used to amend the Constitution. Ironically, Utah, dominated by non-drinking Mormons, was the 36th state to ratify, the number needed to put the 21st Amendment into the Constitution. The most calamitous social-engineering experiment in American history was dead, and tax revenues began to flow copiously into federal and state coffers.

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Blaming Bush for the New Black Panther Scandal

Liberal Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman was embarrassed and attacked by constituents recently when he claimed no knowledge of the New Black Panther scandal. So in true liberal pol style, he’s using his own gaffe as an excuse to savage the Bush administration. Yeah, really.

On July 19, Sherman wrote Attorney General Eric Holder — sorry, liberal spin squad — to acknowledge that voter intimidation and fraud are, gosh, serious matters and that he understands that charges were dropped against all but one defendant and “downgraded against one.” He also urges Holder to “review the matter and pursue the criminal case that your department did not originally pursue.” Well, there never was a criminal case, but Sherman now has joined the legions of conservatives calling for an investigation and the refiling of charges. I guess there really is an important case.

But then Sherman takes a bizarre turn and recites a litany of cases he claims the Bush administration (Brad, blaming Bush doesn’t work; look at the polls) did not pursue. Huh? He says this all might have occurred — get this — because of “politicization.” You know, usually pols are not so pathetically obvious in their misdirection gambits.

Nevertheless, it is heart-warming to see Sherman undercut the “no big deal” patrol, which seems so organized and so uniform on the New Black Panther counteroffensive you’d almost believe Journolist still lives.

Liberal Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman was embarrassed and attacked by constituents recently when he claimed no knowledge of the New Black Panther scandal. So in true liberal pol style, he’s using his own gaffe as an excuse to savage the Bush administration. Yeah, really.

On July 19, Sherman wrote Attorney General Eric Holder — sorry, liberal spin squad — to acknowledge that voter intimidation and fraud are, gosh, serious matters and that he understands that charges were dropped against all but one defendant and “downgraded against one.” He also urges Holder to “review the matter and pursue the criminal case that your department did not originally pursue.” Well, there never was a criminal case, but Sherman now has joined the legions of conservatives calling for an investigation and the refiling of charges. I guess there really is an important case.

But then Sherman takes a bizarre turn and recites a litany of cases he claims the Bush administration (Brad, blaming Bush doesn’t work; look at the polls) did not pursue. Huh? He says this all might have occurred — get this — because of “politicization.” You know, usually pols are not so pathetically obvious in their misdirection gambits.

Nevertheless, it is heart-warming to see Sherman undercut the “no big deal” patrol, which seems so organized and so uniform on the New Black Panther counteroffensive you’d almost believe Journolist still lives.

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New Black Panthers — GOP Turns Up the Heat

Republicans on the Hill are turning their sights to the mushrooming New Black Panther Party scandal. Two of the latest developments signal the more aggressive stance from Republicans.

First, Rep. Lamar Smith (one of the few congressmen who has diligently hounded the administration for answers about the dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and for its position on enforcement of the civil rights laws) wrote to the president. As Ranking Chair on the House Judiciary Committee, he is asking for a special prosecutor to be appointed not only to investigate the dismissal of a single case but also to determine whether the Obama Justice Department is operating under a “no lawsuits against minorities” rule.

Then on Friday, in the Senate, the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee — all seven, including Lindsey Graham — sent a letter to Committee Chairman Pat Leahy. They list the relevant facts of the case, and they also make clear there is more at issue than a single case. The senators recap testimony that the assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas Perez, may have provided untruthful testimony and that the deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights, Julie Fernandes, said that the Department wouldn’t pursue cases with minority defendants and white victims. They conclude that if the allegations are true, the Obama Justice Department is guilty of “politicization and possible corruption.” They demand a hearing. The kicker is subtle and in the final line: “Given the importance of this oversight matter, we believe that holding a hearing on this issue should take priority over other Committee business.”

Are the Republicans threatening to hold up confirmation hearings? Could filibusters be in the future? There is the Elena Kagan vote and also the hearing to fill the No. 2 slot in Justice. (The controversial James Cole awaits his confirmation hearing.) If the Obama administration wants to move forward on its issues and appointments, the Republicans seem to be implying that the stonewall act of Eric Holder, aided and abetted by the slothful Democratic chairmen, must end. Seems fair, right?

Maybe now the mainstream media will recognize that this story is hardly about a single case, as noxious as it was to forfeit a default judgment against blatant violators of the Voting Rights Act. Face the Nation is scheduled to take a look at the matter today. (I wonder if the guests have been warned not to bring up the network’s yearlong refusal to cover the story.) We will see whether the mainstream media perk up and admit there is, in fact, a scandal of significant proportions that needs to be fully investigated.

The Democrats may be more motivated now than they were a month or a year ago to look into the allegations for two reasons. First, if one or both of the houses flip to Republican control, Rep. Lamar Smith will be Chairman Smith, and Republicans will have subpoena power. Perhaps now is the time for the Obami and House Democrats to make amends with Smith, whose requests and inquiries have been repeatedly ignored. There is nothing quite like a new chairman with an axe to grind. Similarly in the Senate, wouldn’t it be better for the Democrats to have a hearing under the protective eye of Sen. Leahy? It’s a big risk to let things build and to hope that all the polls showing an impending landslide are wrong. They could be facing Chairman Kyl, you know.

Second, Congress is soon to recess. What if — like Rep. Brad Sherman — more Democrats are “ambushed” by constituents demanding answers about the case? (Note to Democratic friends: read up about the case; the voters don’t like it when you say you’ve never heard about something because the New York Times didn’t report on it.) Certainly, if confronted by irate voters, Democrats would prefer to say: “Yes, I’m concerned too about equal enforcement of civil rights laws. We sure are going to have a hearing on that. Now, let’s get back to the real issue in the campaign: George W. Bush.” Well, you get the idea.

Even if the media is in damage-control mode — playing dumb about the wider implications of the case — Republicans have no intention of going along with the charade. As a result, an unseemly scandal is about to get a whole lot more attention. Like it or not, the media may be obliged to follow the story — the whole story.

Republicans on the Hill are turning their sights to the mushrooming New Black Panther Party scandal. Two of the latest developments signal the more aggressive stance from Republicans.

First, Rep. Lamar Smith (one of the few congressmen who has diligently hounded the administration for answers about the dismissal of the voter-intimidation case and for its position on enforcement of the civil rights laws) wrote to the president. As Ranking Chair on the House Judiciary Committee, he is asking for a special prosecutor to be appointed not only to investigate the dismissal of a single case but also to determine whether the Obama Justice Department is operating under a “no lawsuits against minorities” rule.

Then on Friday, in the Senate, the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee — all seven, including Lindsey Graham — sent a letter to Committee Chairman Pat Leahy. They list the relevant facts of the case, and they also make clear there is more at issue than a single case. The senators recap testimony that the assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas Perez, may have provided untruthful testimony and that the deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights, Julie Fernandes, said that the Department wouldn’t pursue cases with minority defendants and white victims. They conclude that if the allegations are true, the Obama Justice Department is guilty of “politicization and possible corruption.” They demand a hearing. The kicker is subtle and in the final line: “Given the importance of this oversight matter, we believe that holding a hearing on this issue should take priority over other Committee business.”

Are the Republicans threatening to hold up confirmation hearings? Could filibusters be in the future? There is the Elena Kagan vote and also the hearing to fill the No. 2 slot in Justice. (The controversial James Cole awaits his confirmation hearing.) If the Obama administration wants to move forward on its issues and appointments, the Republicans seem to be implying that the stonewall act of Eric Holder, aided and abetted by the slothful Democratic chairmen, must end. Seems fair, right?

Maybe now the mainstream media will recognize that this story is hardly about a single case, as noxious as it was to forfeit a default judgment against blatant violators of the Voting Rights Act. Face the Nation is scheduled to take a look at the matter today. (I wonder if the guests have been warned not to bring up the network’s yearlong refusal to cover the story.) We will see whether the mainstream media perk up and admit there is, in fact, a scandal of significant proportions that needs to be fully investigated.

The Democrats may be more motivated now than they were a month or a year ago to look into the allegations for two reasons. First, if one or both of the houses flip to Republican control, Rep. Lamar Smith will be Chairman Smith, and Republicans will have subpoena power. Perhaps now is the time for the Obami and House Democrats to make amends with Smith, whose requests and inquiries have been repeatedly ignored. There is nothing quite like a new chairman with an axe to grind. Similarly in the Senate, wouldn’t it be better for the Democrats to have a hearing under the protective eye of Sen. Leahy? It’s a big risk to let things build and to hope that all the polls showing an impending landslide are wrong. They could be facing Chairman Kyl, you know.

Second, Congress is soon to recess. What if — like Rep. Brad Sherman — more Democrats are “ambushed” by constituents demanding answers about the case? (Note to Democratic friends: read up about the case; the voters don’t like it when you say you’ve never heard about something because the New York Times didn’t report on it.) Certainly, if confronted by irate voters, Democrats would prefer to say: “Yes, I’m concerned too about equal enforcement of civil rights laws. We sure are going to have a hearing on that. Now, let’s get back to the real issue in the campaign: George W. Bush.” Well, you get the idea.

Even if the media is in damage-control mode — playing dumb about the wider implications of the case — Republicans have no intention of going along with the charade. As a result, an unseemly scandal is about to get a whole lot more attention. Like it or not, the media may be obliged to follow the story — the whole story.

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It’s Time to Tea Party Again

Powerline has a great clip of a town hall meeting in the 27th Congressional district of California, represented by Democrat Brad Sherman.

Congressman Sherman actually claims not to have heard of the New Black Panther case or its dismissal by the Justice Department. The crowd is not amused, to put it mildly.

I hope YouTube is positively crawling with clips like this one for the rest of the summer.

Powerline has a great clip of a town hall meeting in the 27th Congressional district of California, represented by Democrat Brad Sherman.

Congressman Sherman actually claims not to have heard of the New Black Panther case or its dismissal by the Justice Department. The crowd is not amused, to put it mildly.

I hope YouTube is positively crawling with clips like this one for the rest of the summer.

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Obama Is for Weaker Iran Sanctions

Obama, no doubt believing that phony Iran sanctions will bring praise — after all, he got cheers from mainstream Jewish groups on the UN agreement — is continuing to press Congress for weaker sanctions in the wake of the UN vote. Yes, yes he promised that the really tough stuff was coming, but he didn’t really mean they’d be effective. Obama would rather cut Iran a break than annoy its new friends (who have done what, exactly, for us lately?), China and Russia, or our European allies, which have stepped up the Israel-bashing:

U.S. sanctions have strong support in Congress, and the administration backs them in principle as a way to strengthen the mild strictures adopted on Wednesday by the U.N. Security Council. But the administration fears that the legislation also could damage relations with Europe, Russia and China, all of whom cooperated with U.S. efforts on the U.N. sanctions.

To avoid that possibility, the administration wants authority to waive U.S. punishment against companies from countries that have cooperated on Iran.

Many lawmakers are wary. Some say the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has been lax in enforcing existing Iran sanctions out of concern for good relations with other world powers.

“The administration doesn’t carry out the laws that are on the books, and they want the new law to be as weak and loophole-ridden as possible,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who has been pushing for years for such legislation.

Republicans have been ratcheting up their demands for Congress to hang tough, arguing that the U.N. resolution fell short of what was needed.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the U.N. sanctions a “goose egg” and demanded that Congress impose “crippling sanctions against Iran.”

It seems that no matter how gingerly Obama is treated by Jewish groups — make the Reid-McConnnell letter less offensive, praise Obama for a UN Security Statement singling out Israel, cheer the ludicrous UN sanctions — he never comes through with a tougher line on Iran or a warmer one on Israel. As one Capitol Hill staffer put it, “Everyone wants to treat the administration with kid gloves as if suddenly a hawkish and pro-Israel Obama will emerge.”

Well, that’s as silly as “engaging” Iran or “resetting” relations with Russia by capitulating on everything Putin wants. It seems Obama has been taking all those Jewish leaders, who come to the White House for “reassurance,” for a ride. Tougher sanctions aren’t coming along if Obama can help it. After all, stopping a nuclear-armed Iran isn’t nearly as important as keeping things chummy with unco-operative allies and despotic regimes.

Obama, no doubt believing that phony Iran sanctions will bring praise — after all, he got cheers from mainstream Jewish groups on the UN agreement — is continuing to press Congress for weaker sanctions in the wake of the UN vote. Yes, yes he promised that the really tough stuff was coming, but he didn’t really mean they’d be effective. Obama would rather cut Iran a break than annoy its new friends (who have done what, exactly, for us lately?), China and Russia, or our European allies, which have stepped up the Israel-bashing:

U.S. sanctions have strong support in Congress, and the administration backs them in principle as a way to strengthen the mild strictures adopted on Wednesday by the U.N. Security Council. But the administration fears that the legislation also could damage relations with Europe, Russia and China, all of whom cooperated with U.S. efforts on the U.N. sanctions.

To avoid that possibility, the administration wants authority to waive U.S. punishment against companies from countries that have cooperated on Iran.

Many lawmakers are wary. Some say the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has been lax in enforcing existing Iran sanctions out of concern for good relations with other world powers.

“The administration doesn’t carry out the laws that are on the books, and they want the new law to be as weak and loophole-ridden as possible,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who has been pushing for years for such legislation.

Republicans have been ratcheting up their demands for Congress to hang tough, arguing that the U.N. resolution fell short of what was needed.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the U.N. sanctions a “goose egg” and demanded that Congress impose “crippling sanctions against Iran.”

It seems that no matter how gingerly Obama is treated by Jewish groups — make the Reid-McConnnell letter less offensive, praise Obama for a UN Security Statement singling out Israel, cheer the ludicrous UN sanctions — he never comes through with a tougher line on Iran or a warmer one on Israel. As one Capitol Hill staffer put it, “Everyone wants to treat the administration with kid gloves as if suddenly a hawkish and pro-Israel Obama will emerge.”

Well, that’s as silly as “engaging” Iran or “resetting” relations with Russia by capitulating on everything Putin wants. It seems Obama has been taking all those Jewish leaders, who come to the White House for “reassurance,” for a ride. Tougher sanctions aren’t coming along if Obama can help it. After all, stopping a nuclear-armed Iran isn’t nearly as important as keeping things chummy with unco-operative allies and despotic regimes.

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The Nod and Smile Offensive

Earlier this week, Jen cited an AP report about President Obama’s Tuesday-evening meeting with 37 Jewish Democratic lawmakers, in which participants urged him to discuss publicly his commitment to Israel and to travel there. The interesting part of the report was what was missing from it: Obama’s response.

A Jerusalem Post report was slightly more informative. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) said Obama “didn’t respond directly.” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said, “I think he nodded and smiled.” In other words, he said nothing.

This was not the first time the suggestion to travel to Israel was made only to receive a non-response. Last July, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn took to the op-ed pages of the New York Times — in an article entitled Why Won’t Obama Talk to Israel? — and urged Obama to come to Israel. Benn noted that Obama had spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians, and Africans – but had not bothered to speak to Israelis: “The Arabs got the Cairo speech; we got silence.”

At the time, Joe Klein wrote that “Obama needs to explain his policy to the Israeli public” and was “already planning to make this sort of effort — Israeli television interviews, etc. — in the coming weeks.” Jeffrey Goldberg thought a visit “soon” was a good idea, but when he asked two “senior administration officials” when Obama might do it, “or at least speak at length about his positive vision for a secure Israel,” the officials were “non-committal.“ Neither the trip, nor the television interviews, nor the speech ever occurred.

Over the following year, the relationship with Israel worsened further — capped by the extraordinary public castigation over future Jewish housing in a Jewish area of the capital of the Jewish state, followed by the humiliation of the prime minister with an after-hours, side-door meeting with no pictures or joint statement. Administration officials are now engaged in endless “outreach events,” but the noteworthy point is that Obama has yet to speak publicly on the issue.

He held a private lunch with Elie Wiesel (no pictures or press) and a private meeting with Jewish Democrats, but there is still no trip to Israel, no interviews with Israeli media, no speech. He has also stopped holding prime-time press conferences at which questions on this and related foreign-policy issues could be asked. The charm offensive provides a kind of nod and smile to Jewish voters, but what Aluf Benn wrote a year ago remains true today — and the underlying issues remain as well.

Earlier this week, Jen cited an AP report about President Obama’s Tuesday-evening meeting with 37 Jewish Democratic lawmakers, in which participants urged him to discuss publicly his commitment to Israel and to travel there. The interesting part of the report was what was missing from it: Obama’s response.

A Jerusalem Post report was slightly more informative. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) said Obama “didn’t respond directly.” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said, “I think he nodded and smiled.” In other words, he said nothing.

This was not the first time the suggestion to travel to Israel was made only to receive a non-response. Last July, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn took to the op-ed pages of the New York Times — in an article entitled Why Won’t Obama Talk to Israel? — and urged Obama to come to Israel. Benn noted that Obama had spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians, and Africans – but had not bothered to speak to Israelis: “The Arabs got the Cairo speech; we got silence.”

At the time, Joe Klein wrote that “Obama needs to explain his policy to the Israeli public” and was “already planning to make this sort of effort — Israeli television interviews, etc. — in the coming weeks.” Jeffrey Goldberg thought a visit “soon” was a good idea, but when he asked two “senior administration officials” when Obama might do it, “or at least speak at length about his positive vision for a secure Israel,” the officials were “non-committal.“ Neither the trip, nor the television interviews, nor the speech ever occurred.

Over the following year, the relationship with Israel worsened further — capped by the extraordinary public castigation over future Jewish housing in a Jewish area of the capital of the Jewish state, followed by the humiliation of the prime minister with an after-hours, side-door meeting with no pictures or joint statement. Administration officials are now engaged in endless “outreach events,” but the noteworthy point is that Obama has yet to speak publicly on the issue.

He held a private lunch with Elie Wiesel (no pictures or press) and a private meeting with Jewish Democrats, but there is still no trip to Israel, no interviews with Israeli media, no speech. He has also stopped holding prime-time press conferences at which questions on this and related foreign-policy issues could be asked. The charm offensive provides a kind of nod and smile to Jewish voters, but what Aluf Benn wrote a year ago remains true today — and the underlying issues remain as well.

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RE: Do They Know What Obama Is up To?

Well, some American Jews plainly do. A reader passes on this account of a recent gathering in California, suggesting that there is a motivated group of Jews not at all pleased with Obama’s Middle East policy:

Last night I went to a town hall meeting on Israel featuring Congressman Brad Sherman at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, CA, called by the rabbi in response to the concern over the deteriorating relationship between  President Obama and the State and the people of Israel. Sherman is a 7th-term Jewish Congressman with strong ties to the Jewish community, who has always been considered very pro-Israel. Sherman must have expected a hostile crowd, as he did not allow anyone to talk to him directly. Questions were submitted in writing and chosen and paraphrased by the moderator (Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah, who did do a very good job expressing the written concerns of the audience while also being fair and hospitable to Sherman).

Nearly all the questions dealt with the controversy. The meeting hall of this large congregation was packed, and the temple’s parking lot  was entirely full, forcing people to park on the street nearby.  Nearly all questions and audience feedback were negative, with virtually no applause for Sherman’s answers. There was lots of clapping for hostile questions, lots of hostile rumblings as he tried to answer charges, and some answers were booed. Even the moderator at the end basically accused Sherman of not actually answering a lot of the questions. The audience was not sold on Obama being pro-Israel, nor on Sherman’s excuses for the current situation.

Sherman portrayed himself as more pro-Israel and more concerned about Iran than any U.S. president during his Congressional service. He shrugged off the current controversy as something we will have forgotten in a few years, arguing that the U.S. relationship with Israel is fine because the foreign aid package remains and we haven’t yet stopped vetoing anti-Israel UN resolutions. While he promised action on his part concerning sanctions on Iran, he expressed skepticism that anything would really be done (at one point “joking” that the rabbi would be more useful than he, as if divine intervention would be required), and kept emphasizing that any military option would spike gas prices. These statements did not go over well.

Most negative were the reactions when when he repeatedly wrote off his and Obama’s critics as die hard right wingers who would be angry regardless. The moderator polled the audience and showed that the room was about 60/40 McCain voters, meaning there were in fact many angry Obama voters there (and that Obama opponents of all kinds are energized in this community). The most applause was for the question of whether many Jews would switch their votes to Republican because of this controversy — which fired up the crowd and those potential switchers.

Well, one crowd is not necessarily indicative of the entire community, but this suggests that those most concerned about Israel — and willing to turn out to ask questions of their congressman — are the most aggrieved by Obama’s policies. Whether this translates into a drop-off in Jews’ financial support and/or votes for Obama and like-minded lawmakers is an open question. But one wonders what they are waiting for. A declaration by Iran that they do in fact possess a nuclear weapon? An announcement by Obama that he’s going to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state unless Israel accepts his imposed deal? Really, if not now, when?

Well, some American Jews plainly do. A reader passes on this account of a recent gathering in California, suggesting that there is a motivated group of Jews not at all pleased with Obama’s Middle East policy:

Last night I went to a town hall meeting on Israel featuring Congressman Brad Sherman at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, CA, called by the rabbi in response to the concern over the deteriorating relationship between  President Obama and the State and the people of Israel. Sherman is a 7th-term Jewish Congressman with strong ties to the Jewish community, who has always been considered very pro-Israel. Sherman must have expected a hostile crowd, as he did not allow anyone to talk to him directly. Questions were submitted in writing and chosen and paraphrased by the moderator (Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah, who did do a very good job expressing the written concerns of the audience while also being fair and hospitable to Sherman).

Nearly all the questions dealt with the controversy. The meeting hall of this large congregation was packed, and the temple’s parking lot  was entirely full, forcing people to park on the street nearby.  Nearly all questions and audience feedback were negative, with virtually no applause for Sherman’s answers. There was lots of clapping for hostile questions, lots of hostile rumblings as he tried to answer charges, and some answers were booed. Even the moderator at the end basically accused Sherman of not actually answering a lot of the questions. The audience was not sold on Obama being pro-Israel, nor on Sherman’s excuses for the current situation.

Sherman portrayed himself as more pro-Israel and more concerned about Iran than any U.S. president during his Congressional service. He shrugged off the current controversy as something we will have forgotten in a few years, arguing that the U.S. relationship with Israel is fine because the foreign aid package remains and we haven’t yet stopped vetoing anti-Israel UN resolutions. While he promised action on his part concerning sanctions on Iran, he expressed skepticism that anything would really be done (at one point “joking” that the rabbi would be more useful than he, as if divine intervention would be required), and kept emphasizing that any military option would spike gas prices. These statements did not go over well.

Most negative were the reactions when when he repeatedly wrote off his and Obama’s critics as die hard right wingers who would be angry regardless. The moderator polled the audience and showed that the room was about 60/40 McCain voters, meaning there were in fact many angry Obama voters there (and that Obama opponents of all kinds are energized in this community). The most applause was for the question of whether many Jews would switch their votes to Republican because of this controversy — which fired up the crowd and those potential switchers.

Well, one crowd is not necessarily indicative of the entire community, but this suggests that those most concerned about Israel — and willing to turn out to ask questions of their congressman — are the most aggrieved by Obama’s policies. Whether this translates into a drop-off in Jews’ financial support and/or votes for Obama and like-minded lawmakers is an open question. But one wonders what they are waiting for. A declaration by Iran that they do in fact possess a nuclear weapon? An announcement by Obama that he’s going to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state unless Israel accepts his imposed deal? Really, if not now, when?

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