Commentary Magazine


Topic: Caucus

Turkey Caucus Should Speak Out on Anti-Semitism

I’ve written a number of times about the Congressional Turkey Caucus, the congressional organization which seeks to promote and encourage a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship. While many Caucus members simply join to burnish foreign-policy credentials or qualify for Istanbul junkets, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, has used membership numbers in the Turkey Caucus to imply U.S. endorsement of Turkey’s foreign and perhaps even domestic policies.

Alas, those Turkish policies run increasingly counter to U.S. interests with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Eastern Mediterranean, and NATO. The Turkish government has grown more noxious in recent weeks as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his top aides have blamed Jews and/or Israelis for everything from the protests in Gezi Park to the coup in Cairo to the the alleged use of telekinesis to undercut Erdoğan and his allies. He has promoted films which depict Jews as scavenging Iraqis for their organ, and Mein Kampf has become a best-seller. Anti-Semitism is rife increasingly among Turkey’s civil servants and diplomatic corps, and Erdoğan has suggested that Israel’s existence is a hate crime.

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I’ve written a number of times about the Congressional Turkey Caucus, the congressional organization which seeks to promote and encourage a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship. While many Caucus members simply join to burnish foreign-policy credentials or qualify for Istanbul junkets, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, has used membership numbers in the Turkey Caucus to imply U.S. endorsement of Turkey’s foreign and perhaps even domestic policies.

Alas, those Turkish policies run increasingly counter to U.S. interests with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Eastern Mediterranean, and NATO. The Turkish government has grown more noxious in recent weeks as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his top aides have blamed Jews and/or Israelis for everything from the protests in Gezi Park to the coup in Cairo to the the alleged use of telekinesis to undercut Erdoğan and his allies. He has promoted films which depict Jews as scavenging Iraqis for their organ, and Mein Kampf has become a best-seller. Anti-Semitism is rife increasingly among Turkey’s civil servants and diplomatic corps, and Erdoğan has suggested that Israel’s existence is a hate crime.

When it comes to political theories and Jews, Erdoğan increasingly sounds like a cross between Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The difference between Erdoğan and those three footnotes to history, however, is that only Erdoğan has 135 congressmen watching his back. How shameful it is that the chairmen of the Congressional Turkey Caucus have not spoken out on Turkish anti-Semitism. Their silence convinces the paranoid and conspiratorial Erdoğan that American congressmen support his theories. Sometimes, diplomacy isn’t simply about making friendships; true diplomacy requires sometimes breaking them as well.

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No Chaos Here, Just Move Along

This headline probably isn’t what the White House and congressional Democrats want to see: “Pelosi Hits Rough Patch, Denies ‘Chaos.’” Well, yes, if you have to deny it, then that’s probably a sign things are not well in paradise. The gist of the report is that Nancy Pelosi (not unlike the White House) is out of touch and in far-Left field:

Last week’s threatened Democratic defections in support of a planned GOP resolution concerning New York Rep. Charles Rangel’s ethical problems, a mini-insurrection over who should take over Rangel’s Ways and Means Committee gavel, and Pelosi’s weirdly detached admission to being left out of the loop about harassment charges against Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., left even some House Democrats wincing.

All of this did little to soothe the nerves of Caucus members already jittery over predictions of a Democratic free-fall in the upcoming midterm elections. It’s a fear described by one senior House Democrat as “palpable and pervasive.”

A bad week? Pelosi acknowledged as much herself at her weekly briefing Thursday when asked if she felt like she was now leading “a party in crisis.”
“Some of the issues that you reference in terms of the issues that transpired in the last few days, they are behind us,” she said.

But the week’s events represented a highly visible — if not embarrassing — bit of unraveling of the cohesion within the Democratic Caucus that Pelosi has, for the most part, tightly controlled since taking the speaker’s gavel in 2007.

The problem seems to be that many moderate Democrats fear she is in the grip of the far Left in her caucus:

“Across the Caucus, there is growing dissatisfaction and resentment — not so much directed at Pelosi — but with her cadre of California liberals seen as continually driving her House agenda, regardless of the hits the rest of us will have to take,” said one House Democrat. … “She seems to only be listening to this small cadre, and the rank and file are expected to simply fall in line,” complained a senior Democrat; he said this is contributing to Caucus animosity over the prospect of being asked once again to walk the plank on a healthcare bill, after already passing a bill last year, on top of climate legislation establishing a cap-and-trade emissions program.

This is nothing new. What is new is that those members who aren’t in safe seats (a growing group thanks to the Obami) now see their political future imperiled by Pelosi’s extremism. And they’ve also come to acknowledge that she’s less than competent in both representing the House Democrats to the public and draining that swamp she promised to take care of when she assumed the speakership. The result is that her credibility erodes, the arm-twisting is less effective, and it’s every member for himself. That’s probably wise for the endangered members who can get themselves better aligned with their constituents. It’s not so good, however, for ObamaCare’s prospects. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer must be licking his chops. After November, his colleagues would be wise to look for new leadership.

This headline probably isn’t what the White House and congressional Democrats want to see: “Pelosi Hits Rough Patch, Denies ‘Chaos.’” Well, yes, if you have to deny it, then that’s probably a sign things are not well in paradise. The gist of the report is that Nancy Pelosi (not unlike the White House) is out of touch and in far-Left field:

Last week’s threatened Democratic defections in support of a planned GOP resolution concerning New York Rep. Charles Rangel’s ethical problems, a mini-insurrection over who should take over Rangel’s Ways and Means Committee gavel, and Pelosi’s weirdly detached admission to being left out of the loop about harassment charges against Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., left even some House Democrats wincing.

All of this did little to soothe the nerves of Caucus members already jittery over predictions of a Democratic free-fall in the upcoming midterm elections. It’s a fear described by one senior House Democrat as “palpable and pervasive.”

A bad week? Pelosi acknowledged as much herself at her weekly briefing Thursday when asked if she felt like she was now leading “a party in crisis.”
“Some of the issues that you reference in terms of the issues that transpired in the last few days, they are behind us,” she said.

But the week’s events represented a highly visible — if not embarrassing — bit of unraveling of the cohesion within the Democratic Caucus that Pelosi has, for the most part, tightly controlled since taking the speaker’s gavel in 2007.

The problem seems to be that many moderate Democrats fear she is in the grip of the far Left in her caucus:

“Across the Caucus, there is growing dissatisfaction and resentment — not so much directed at Pelosi — but with her cadre of California liberals seen as continually driving her House agenda, regardless of the hits the rest of us will have to take,” said one House Democrat. … “She seems to only be listening to this small cadre, and the rank and file are expected to simply fall in line,” complained a senior Democrat; he said this is contributing to Caucus animosity over the prospect of being asked once again to walk the plank on a healthcare bill, after already passing a bill last year, on top of climate legislation establishing a cap-and-trade emissions program.

This is nothing new. What is new is that those members who aren’t in safe seats (a growing group thanks to the Obami) now see their political future imperiled by Pelosi’s extremism. And they’ve also come to acknowledge that she’s less than competent in both representing the House Democrats to the public and draining that swamp she promised to take care of when she assumed the speakership. The result is that her credibility erodes, the arm-twisting is less effective, and it’s every member for himself. That’s probably wise for the endangered members who can get themselves better aligned with their constituents. It’s not so good, however, for ObamaCare’s prospects. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer must be licking his chops. After November, his colleagues would be wise to look for new leadership.

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