Commentary Magazine


Topic: fundraiser

Rep. Ackerman Throws J Street Under the Bus

Despite J Street’s eagerness to blame its “political enemies” for its public-relations troubles, all its image problems have been brought on by itself. Nobody forced the group the take money from George Soros, surreptitiously aide Richard Goldstone, and engage in unethical self-dealing. These actions are a sign of a deep-seated moral corruption within the organization, and they’re likely to keep occurring unless the group dismantles its leadership entirely.

This seems to be the realization that one of J Street’s strongest political allies, Rep. Gary Ackerman, came to today. Appalled that the organization is supporting the pending UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the congressman has told J Street in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing to do with them anymore:

“After learning of J-Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and—critically—would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.”

And Ackerman is by no means opposed to progressive pro-Israel groups — he just notes that J Street isn’t one of them.

“America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel,” said the congressman. “Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”

This is the strongest sign so far that J Street’s political support on Capitol Hill has completely dried up. Ackerman isn’t denouncing the group in a last-minute attempt to win an election, as other politicians have done. He’s doing it because being linked to J Street has become a political liability even when it’s not a campaign season.

He’s also doing it because J Street’s actions over the past year — culminating in its support for this UN resolution — have made it impossible to logically claim that the group is still pro-Israel.

Ackerman rightly notes that J Street’s support for the resolution “is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

In a press release for a fundraiser that J Street held for Ackerman and a few other members of Congress just three months ago, the group called the politicians “excellent advocates for pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Congress and courageous leaders on other progressive issues as well.”

And now Ackerman — lauded as “progressive” and “pro-Israel, pro-peace” by J Street — has concluded that J Street can no longer be considered pro-Israel. That should certainly give other J Street supporters in Congress pause (that is, if there are any of them still left).

Despite J Street’s eagerness to blame its “political enemies” for its public-relations troubles, all its image problems have been brought on by itself. Nobody forced the group the take money from George Soros, surreptitiously aide Richard Goldstone, and engage in unethical self-dealing. These actions are a sign of a deep-seated moral corruption within the organization, and they’re likely to keep occurring unless the group dismantles its leadership entirely.

This seems to be the realization that one of J Street’s strongest political allies, Rep. Gary Ackerman, came to today. Appalled that the organization is supporting the pending UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements, the congressman has told J Street in no uncertain terms that he wants nothing to do with them anymore:

“After learning of J-Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and—critically—would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.”

And Ackerman is by no means opposed to progressive pro-Israel groups — he just notes that J Street isn’t one of them.

“America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel,” said the congressman. “Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”

This is the strongest sign so far that J Street’s political support on Capitol Hill has completely dried up. Ackerman isn’t denouncing the group in a last-minute attempt to win an election, as other politicians have done. He’s doing it because being linked to J Street has become a political liability even when it’s not a campaign season.

He’s also doing it because J Street’s actions over the past year — culminating in its support for this UN resolution — have made it impossible to logically claim that the group is still pro-Israel.

Ackerman rightly notes that J Street’s support for the resolution “is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

In a press release for a fundraiser that J Street held for Ackerman and a few other members of Congress just three months ago, the group called the politicians “excellent advocates for pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Congress and courageous leaders on other progressive issues as well.”

And now Ackerman — lauded as “progressive” and “pro-Israel, pro-peace” by J Street — has concluded that J Street can no longer be considered pro-Israel. That should certainly give other J Street supporters in Congress pause (that is, if there are any of them still left).

Read Less

Does Schumer Care About CAIR?

Chuck Schumer, the wanna-be majority (minority?) leader for the next Senate, is doing a fundraiser for the hapless Joe Sestak in Philadelphia tonight. The Toomey camp has jumped on this, challenging Sestak to answer questions about his association with CAIR. In a statement, Toomey’s campaign reminds us that in 2003, Schumer declared in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “We know [CAIR] has ties to terrorism.” So the Toomey camp wants to know if Sestak now agrees with Schumer, and if he thinks it’s appropriate to keynote for CAIR and praise “its good work.” The campaign also tucks in this bombshell: “Will Congressman Sestak return the $2,000 he has received from officers of CAIR?”

Wait. Sestak keynoted for them, praised them, and then got money from them — a group that refuses to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups and that has had multiple officials indicted for and convicted of terrorist activities? In fact, Sestak received donations from the then-president, treasurer, and chairman of the Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR. He is plainly the group’s choice candidate. (These donations were made between 2006 and 2009.)

So let’s get this straight: Sestak took money from Soros Street (which wrote Richard Goldstone’s defense case and escorted him around Capitol Hill) and from CAIR, which the Democrats’ leader-in-waiting has deemed to have terrorist ties. Sestak may already be a dead duck. But what is Chuck Schumer, the great friend of Israel, doing with this guy? Schumer has had it both ways of late. He’s made heartfelt speeches to AIPAC and grumbled about Obama in the Jewish media, but when it comes to the national Democratic stage, he seems to jettison all those concerns. At some point, Schumer’s pro-Israel supporters may want a more consistent advocate for their cause.

And in the meantime, Sestak should disgorge this money.

Chuck Schumer, the wanna-be majority (minority?) leader for the next Senate, is doing a fundraiser for the hapless Joe Sestak in Philadelphia tonight. The Toomey camp has jumped on this, challenging Sestak to answer questions about his association with CAIR. In a statement, Toomey’s campaign reminds us that in 2003, Schumer declared in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “We know [CAIR] has ties to terrorism.” So the Toomey camp wants to know if Sestak now agrees with Schumer, and if he thinks it’s appropriate to keynote for CAIR and praise “its good work.” The campaign also tucks in this bombshell: “Will Congressman Sestak return the $2,000 he has received from officers of CAIR?”

Wait. Sestak keynoted for them, praised them, and then got money from them — a group that refuses to condemn Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups and that has had multiple officials indicted for and convicted of terrorist activities? In fact, Sestak received donations from the then-president, treasurer, and chairman of the Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR. He is plainly the group’s choice candidate. (These donations were made between 2006 and 2009.)

So let’s get this straight: Sestak took money from Soros Street (which wrote Richard Goldstone’s defense case and escorted him around Capitol Hill) and from CAIR, which the Democrats’ leader-in-waiting has deemed to have terrorist ties. Sestak may already be a dead duck. But what is Chuck Schumer, the great friend of Israel, doing with this guy? Schumer has had it both ways of late. He’s made heartfelt speeches to AIPAC and grumbled about Obama in the Jewish media, but when it comes to the national Democratic stage, he seems to jettison all those concerns. At some point, Schumer’s pro-Israel supporters may want a more consistent advocate for their cause.

And in the meantime, Sestak should disgorge this money.

Read Less

Incivility to Be Sure

Next time the left whines that the right is too “angry” or that the Tea Partiers have debased the political debate in this country, remember which National Mall rally was polite, uplifting, and tidy and which hurled invectives at its opponents. And please also recall the rhetoric coming from the White House, which in the good ole days — two years ago — used to observe a certain level of decorum befitting the chief executive. The president and his spokesman now routinely name-call and demean the opposition. The latest example of this comes from the hapless Joe Biden, who tries his best to play attack dog for a White House pack that has plenty of them already:

Biden jokingly said that GOP protests about the need for a balanced budget made him want to strangle them, which the vice president quickly clarified was a figure of speech.

“If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Minnesota, according to a pool report. “To the press, that’s a figure of speech.”

Amused? No, and I suspect Biden realized it wasn’t when he hastened to make sure everyone understood he wasn’t contemplating homicide. Impatience with the unappreciative and annoyance with opponents have characterized the Obama team from Day 1. Unfortunately, “unappreciative” and “opposed” now apply to more than half the country. So the invectives must now encompass an ever-widening circle of doubters, detractors, and critics.

Now there’s nothing as uncivil as a liberal accusing the right of incivility. (Richard Cohen’s horrid column this week comparing the Tea Party to the Kent State shooters is a perfect example of this.) And there’s nothing quite so unattractive as an administration reduced to schoolyard taunts.

Next time the left whines that the right is too “angry” or that the Tea Partiers have debased the political debate in this country, remember which National Mall rally was polite, uplifting, and tidy and which hurled invectives at its opponents. And please also recall the rhetoric coming from the White House, which in the good ole days — two years ago — used to observe a certain level of decorum befitting the chief executive. The president and his spokesman now routinely name-call and demean the opposition. The latest example of this comes from the hapless Joe Biden, who tries his best to play attack dog for a White House pack that has plenty of them already:

Biden jokingly said that GOP protests about the need for a balanced budget made him want to strangle them, which the vice president quickly clarified was a figure of speech.

“If I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Minnesota, according to a pool report. “To the press, that’s a figure of speech.”

Amused? No, and I suspect Biden realized it wasn’t when he hastened to make sure everyone understood he wasn’t contemplating homicide. Impatience with the unappreciative and annoyance with opponents have characterized the Obama team from Day 1. Unfortunately, “unappreciative” and “opposed” now apply to more than half the country. So the invectives must now encompass an ever-widening circle of doubters, detractors, and critics.

Now there’s nothing as uncivil as a liberal accusing the right of incivility. (Richard Cohen’s horrid column this week comparing the Tea Party to the Kent State shooters is a perfect example of this.) And there’s nothing quite so unattractive as an administration reduced to schoolyard taunts.

Read Less

CAIR Explains to the Media: Shut Up

As I wrote yesterday, the Islamists — and their funders and enablers — have perfected the tactic of intimidating pundits and news outlets that stray from the pro-Islamist line. The Daily Caller reports:

Since their founding in 1994, CAIR has sued and/or attacked with consequence such media outlets as: The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, The National Post, National Review, Anti-CAIR, various talk radio hosts, and college newspapers. Recently, even The Daily Caller has found itself caught in CAIR’s cross hairs.

“It is really impossible to know how many people have been intimidated with these lawsuits because if you read the original letter they sent to me, you know, ‘don’t discuss this with anybody else.’ How many people have succumbed to that and said, ‘hey, we don’t want to get involved in this,’ and they’ve quietly gone away,” Andrew Whitehead, a blogger CAIR sued in 2004 for defamation, told The Daily Caller.
Indeed, it was difficult to find individuals to go on the record for this article about CAIR’s alleged intimidation tactics for just that reason, as well as safety concerns of sources.

(As an aside, does Joe Sestak think this is part of CAIR’s wonderful work, which he cooed about at a fundraiser for the free-speech bullies?) It is not hard to figure out the strategy here:

CAIR also has been able to terminate careers. In 2005, despite widespread listener support and lip service to the importance of free speech, ABC radio fired Michael Graham from D.C.’s 630 WMAL in the wake of threats and pressure by CAIR for his criticisms of Islam as a terrorist organization. “What was told to me by people who would have knowledge of this inside ABC Disney was, CAIR sent out an appeal to people with large stock holdings in Disney and people from the Middle East responded to the appeal and pressured ABC Disney to dump me,” Graham said.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has been observing CAIR’s tactics for years. “They are completely removed from all responsibility of reform and the ideological problem and to them it is all about intimidation and somehow putting the fear of God into people so that they think it is going to prevent it from happening again,” Jasser said. “And then they get up and start telling America about Islamaphobia, when they’re creating phobias….It almost seems like their role is to inflame Muslims against their own society.”

It is equally obvious how to combat this problem. Politicians who indulge groups like CAIR should be held responsible by voters. Media outlets that adhere to the Islamist line (notice how “Ground Zero” has disappeared and it’s all about “Park51″) should be queried and challenged by readers and competing outlets. And, most important, the scrutiny of and research into terror organizations, their sponsors and apologists should continue unabated. The accusation of “Islamophobia” should be dismissed for what it is — an unsubtle attempt to smear and silence critics.

Obama fancies himself the explainer in chief of Islam. What we need are leaders able to explain what radical Muslims are all about and denounce their thuggish tactics that bespeak of an intolerant and totalitarian outlook.

As I wrote yesterday, the Islamists — and their funders and enablers — have perfected the tactic of intimidating pundits and news outlets that stray from the pro-Islamist line. The Daily Caller reports:

Since their founding in 1994, CAIR has sued and/or attacked with consequence such media outlets as: The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, The National Post, National Review, Anti-CAIR, various talk radio hosts, and college newspapers. Recently, even The Daily Caller has found itself caught in CAIR’s cross hairs.

“It is really impossible to know how many people have been intimidated with these lawsuits because if you read the original letter they sent to me, you know, ‘don’t discuss this with anybody else.’ How many people have succumbed to that and said, ‘hey, we don’t want to get involved in this,’ and they’ve quietly gone away,” Andrew Whitehead, a blogger CAIR sued in 2004 for defamation, told The Daily Caller.
Indeed, it was difficult to find individuals to go on the record for this article about CAIR’s alleged intimidation tactics for just that reason, as well as safety concerns of sources.

(As an aside, does Joe Sestak think this is part of CAIR’s wonderful work, which he cooed about at a fundraiser for the free-speech bullies?) It is not hard to figure out the strategy here:

CAIR also has been able to terminate careers. In 2005, despite widespread listener support and lip service to the importance of free speech, ABC radio fired Michael Graham from D.C.’s 630 WMAL in the wake of threats and pressure by CAIR for his criticisms of Islam as a terrorist organization. “What was told to me by people who would have knowledge of this inside ABC Disney was, CAIR sent out an appeal to people with large stock holdings in Disney and people from the Middle East responded to the appeal and pressured ABC Disney to dump me,” Graham said.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has been observing CAIR’s tactics for years. “They are completely removed from all responsibility of reform and the ideological problem and to them it is all about intimidation and somehow putting the fear of God into people so that they think it is going to prevent it from happening again,” Jasser said. “And then they get up and start telling America about Islamaphobia, when they’re creating phobias….It almost seems like their role is to inflame Muslims against their own society.”

It is equally obvious how to combat this problem. Politicians who indulge groups like CAIR should be held responsible by voters. Media outlets that adhere to the Islamist line (notice how “Ground Zero” has disappeared and it’s all about “Park51″) should be queried and challenged by readers and competing outlets. And, most important, the scrutiny of and research into terror organizations, their sponsors and apologists should continue unabated. The accusation of “Islamophobia” should be dismissed for what it is — an unsubtle attempt to smear and silence critics.

Obama fancies himself the explainer in chief of Islam. What we need are leaders able to explain what radical Muslims are all about and denounce their thuggish tactics that bespeak of an intolerant and totalitarian outlook.

Read Less

Democrats Fail to Notice the Latest Writing on the Wall

Back in 1884, when Republican presidential standard bearer James G. Blaine sat down in New York for dinner with some of the wealthiest and notorious men in America, including financier Jay Gould, the gathering was widely lampooned in the press as a new version of the Book of Daniel’s Belshazzar’s Feast that preceded the fall of Babylon. The point was that the GOP and its cash-and-carry candidate was so blinded by its alliance with plutocrats that they were unable to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Unfortunately for Blaine, there was no latter-day Daniel available to translate that writing for him, and the scandal-plagued candidate became the first Republican to lose a presidential election in 28 years.

Last night, some 126 years after “Belshazzar Blaine” dined his way into the history books, that corrupt feast of the politically blind was replayed in the Big Apple. Except this time it was the Democrats’ assuming the part of the powerful potentates who care nothing about the rapidly approaching day of political judgment. The 80th-birthday party for embattled Rep. Charles Rangel at the Plaza Hotel drew out the high and the mighty of the New York Democratic Party: Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo all showed up to express solidarity for Rangel despite the numerous ethics violations with which he has been charged. A day after Rangel defiantly harangued the House of Representatives, challenging them to expel him for his pay-to-play shenanigans and tax cheating, the paladins of the party of the people were unashamed to associate themselves with the new poster child for congressional corruption.

Indeed, the most telling moment of the evening may have been before the festivities started when, according to the New York Times, former mayor David Dinkins responded to a heckler outside the hotel (who told him, “You know you are attending a party for a crook”) by giving that citizen the finger.

While the usually more dignified Dinkins was the only attendee who seems to have literally flipped the bird at the voters, it is fair to say that his party’s leaders gave the state the moral equivalent of the finger by backing Rangel’s fundraiser. New York Democrats are apparently so confident of their hold on the state’s highest political offices that they were not worried that the three top names on their ballot in November — Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand — were willing to associate themselves with a left-wing scoundrel so foul that even the New York Times has thrown him overboard. In fact, in an editorial today, the Times noted that Rangel has not only been an embarrassment to his party, but that by bringing up the way he had channeled money to fellow Democrats, he also “drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics” in Washington politics.

If the Republican Party in New York were not an empty shell, then perhaps Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand might have thought twice about honoring Rangel just as his dishonor was becoming a matter of public record. But the rest of the country is a different story. Across the Hudson, most people are rightly viewing Rangel as the symbol of what a joke House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the GOP swamp” of congressional corruption has become.

As Democrats partied the night away in honor of Charlie last night, it appears they were not interested in hearing any messages from the voters about their coddling of the corrupt. But just as Blaine was, like Belshazzar, “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Democrats may well look back after November on the night of Rangel’s birthday bash as a date when they refused to read the writing on the wall.

Back in 1884, when Republican presidential standard bearer James G. Blaine sat down in New York for dinner with some of the wealthiest and notorious men in America, including financier Jay Gould, the gathering was widely lampooned in the press as a new version of the Book of Daniel’s Belshazzar’s Feast that preceded the fall of Babylon. The point was that the GOP and its cash-and-carry candidate was so blinded by its alliance with plutocrats that they were unable to read the proverbial writing on the wall. Unfortunately for Blaine, there was no latter-day Daniel available to translate that writing for him, and the scandal-plagued candidate became the first Republican to lose a presidential election in 28 years.

Last night, some 126 years after “Belshazzar Blaine” dined his way into the history books, that corrupt feast of the politically blind was replayed in the Big Apple. Except this time it was the Democrats’ assuming the part of the powerful potentates who care nothing about the rapidly approaching day of political judgment. The 80th-birthday party for embattled Rep. Charles Rangel at the Plaza Hotel drew out the high and the mighty of the New York Democratic Party: Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo all showed up to express solidarity for Rangel despite the numerous ethics violations with which he has been charged. A day after Rangel defiantly harangued the House of Representatives, challenging them to expel him for his pay-to-play shenanigans and tax cheating, the paladins of the party of the people were unashamed to associate themselves with the new poster child for congressional corruption.

Indeed, the most telling moment of the evening may have been before the festivities started when, according to the New York Times, former mayor David Dinkins responded to a heckler outside the hotel (who told him, “You know you are attending a party for a crook”) by giving that citizen the finger.

While the usually more dignified Dinkins was the only attendee who seems to have literally flipped the bird at the voters, it is fair to say that his party’s leaders gave the state the moral equivalent of the finger by backing Rangel’s fundraiser. New York Democrats are apparently so confident of their hold on the state’s highest political offices that they were not worried that the three top names on their ballot in November — Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand — were willing to associate themselves with a left-wing scoundrel so foul that even the New York Times has thrown him overboard. In fact, in an editorial today, the Times noted that Rangel has not only been an embarrassment to his party, but that by bringing up the way he had channeled money to fellow Democrats, he also “drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics” in Washington politics.

If the Republican Party in New York were not an empty shell, then perhaps Cuomo, Schumer, and Gillibrand might have thought twice about honoring Rangel just as his dishonor was becoming a matter of public record. But the rest of the country is a different story. Across the Hudson, most people are rightly viewing Rangel as the symbol of what a joke House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the GOP swamp” of congressional corruption has become.

As Democrats partied the night away in honor of Charlie last night, it appears they were not interested in hearing any messages from the voters about their coddling of the corrupt. But just as Blaine was, like Belshazzar, “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” Democrats may well look back after November on the night of Rangel’s birthday bash as a date when they refused to read the writing on the wall.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

You can’t parody Joe Biden if he’s going to talk this way: “My grandfather used to always say, ‘Joey, you have to have somebody to beat somebody.'”

You can’t get more blunt than this ad on Iran.

You can’t find any evidence of a “civil war” between conservatives in Gallup’s polling on Tea Party activists: “Americans who say they support the Tea Party movement share a common concern about government and its scope, particularly with regard to deficit spending. Their views do set them apart from those who are neutral or opposed to the Tea Party movement, but hardly distinguish them from supporters of the Republican Party more broadly.”

You can’t be seen with Obama if you’re a Democrat who wants to win in 2010: “PPP has polled on the impact of a Barack Obama endorsement in 5 key Senate races over the last month, and it’s looking more and more clear that there’s just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them.”

You can’t miss the telltale sign that Obama is doing something unpopular: he says it’s all Eric Holder’s idea. “The White House has said the decision to challenge Arizona’s immigration law was out of its hands, left completely up to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the lawyers at the Justice Department.”

You can’t expect the president to go, so David Axelrod will appear at a fundraiser for Tony Rezko’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias. Meanwhile: “Giannoulias’ camp released his income tax returns last Friday, which showed that the ex-banker paid neither federal nor state taxes in ’09. In fact, Giannoulias received a $30K tax return, which he promised to give to charity.”

You can’t be reading things if you want to be a cable talking head! On the lawsuit claiming that the Arizona law is pre-empted by federal immigration law, Dana Perino sanely suggests: “Perhaps we should do something novel like read the complaint before commenting … surely the administration would appreciate that courtesy?”

You can’t imagine it was a long speech: “Queen Elizabeth II of England addressed the United Nations for the first time since 1957 on Tuesday, paying homage to the organization’s accomplishments since she last stood at the famous green podium of the General Assembly.”

You can’t parody Joe Biden if he’s going to talk this way: “My grandfather used to always say, ‘Joey, you have to have somebody to beat somebody.'”

You can’t get more blunt than this ad on Iran.

You can’t find any evidence of a “civil war” between conservatives in Gallup’s polling on Tea Party activists: “Americans who say they support the Tea Party movement share a common concern about government and its scope, particularly with regard to deficit spending. Their views do set them apart from those who are neutral or opposed to the Tea Party movement, but hardly distinguish them from supporters of the Republican Party more broadly.”

You can’t be seen with Obama if you’re a Democrat who wants to win in 2010: “PPP has polled on the impact of a Barack Obama endorsement in 5 key Senate races over the last month, and it’s looking more and more clear that there’s just about nowhere Democratic candidates would benefit from having the President come to campaign with them.”

You can’t miss the telltale sign that Obama is doing something unpopular: he says it’s all Eric Holder’s idea. “The White House has said the decision to challenge Arizona’s immigration law was out of its hands, left completely up to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the lawyers at the Justice Department.”

You can’t expect the president to go, so David Axelrod will appear at a fundraiser for Tony Rezko’s banker, Alexi Giannoulias. Meanwhile: “Giannoulias’ camp released his income tax returns last Friday, which showed that the ex-banker paid neither federal nor state taxes in ’09. In fact, Giannoulias received a $30K tax return, which he promised to give to charity.”

You can’t be reading things if you want to be a cable talking head! On the lawsuit claiming that the Arizona law is pre-empted by federal immigration law, Dana Perino sanely suggests: “Perhaps we should do something novel like read the complaint before commenting … surely the administration would appreciate that courtesy?”

You can’t imagine it was a long speech: “Queen Elizabeth II of England addressed the United Nations for the first time since 1957 on Tuesday, paying homage to the organization’s accomplishments since she last stood at the famous green podium of the General Assembly.”

Read Less

Will a Pro-Israel Record Save Specter, Sink Sestak?

One of the sidebar stories of the battle for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nomination is the way in which incumbent Arlen Specter has tried to use his support of Israel in order to fend off the challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak.

Despite his many other failings as a veteran political weather vane devoid of an ounce of principle, Pennsylvania’s senior senator has been a fairly reliable supporter of the Jewish state during his three decades in office. As such, he has been able to command the support of the mainstream pro-Israel community, in all of his re-election battles. Indeed, in 1992, when, in the aftermath of his tough questioning of Anita Hill, Specter had his toughest general-election challenge, his victory over Democrat Lynn Yeakel could well be credited to the Israel factor. Yeakel, a liberal Democrat whose prime motivation for running was to get revenge for Specter’s rough cross-examination of Clarence Thomas’s accuser, was defeated in no small measure because of her membership in a Presbyterian church that was a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement. Yeakel refused to disavow her pastor or the church (a lesson that Barack Obama might well have profited from when he eventually disavowed Jeremiah Wright), and Specter, with the active assistance of local pro-Israel activists, clobbered her for it and was returned to Washington.

Since then the bond between pro-Israel activists and Specter has stood the test of time. Not even Specter’s bizarre championing of the Assad regime, which he repeatedly visited over the years to the consternation of both Republican and Democratic presidents, diminished his ability to rally his co-religionists as he routinely grabbed the lion’s share of the normally monolithic Democratic Jewish vote.

Indeed, though Specter’s party switch last year to save his political skin in the face of certain defeat in a Republican primary left a bad taste in many voters’ mouths, most Jewish Democrats rejoiced that the man that they had voted for as a Republican could now be supported on the more familiar Democratic line. And though Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania are not numerous enough to be able to swing any election, high Jewish turnout in a primary where turnout is expected to be low cannot be dismissed as a non-factor.

Specter also could count on his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak’s far from sterling record on Israel. In 2007, Sestak spoke at a fundraiser for CAIR – the pro-Hamas front group that was implicated in the Holy Land Foundation federal terror prosecution. And he has signed on to congressional letters criticizing Israel’s measures of self-defense against terrorists and refused to back those bipartisan letters backing the Jewish state on the issue of Jerusalem. Though his stands on other foreign-policy issues, such as continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, are better than those of Specter (who tried to curry favor with the left by backing a policy of cutting and running in Afghanistan), Sestak seems to be J Street’s idea of a model congressman.

But the question facing Specter as Pennsylvania Democrats headed to the polls today in the rain is whether even a solid pro-Israel record will be enough to convince Jewish Democrats to stay with him despite a rising anti-incumbent tide. And if, as recent polls indicate, Sestak wins tonight, the stage will be set for a true test of the Jewish vote in November. If the general-election match-up turns out to be a race between Sestak and the conservative but impeccably pro-Israel Pat Toomey, Jewish Democrats who care about Israel will then be forced to choose between their party loyalty and the need to keep a Senate seat in the hands of a friend of the Jewish state. A full-page ad that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent last week lambasted Sestak for his record on Israel and asked voters to “not allow Joe Sestak to represent you in the U.S. Senate.” The ad seemed to draw a line in the sand for some of the prominent Jewish Democrats listed as having signed the statement. If the polls are right and Specter’s long career is now at an end, then those Democrats will have a difficult time explaining a decision to support Sestak against a man like Toomey who can be counted on to stand up to a White House whose animus for Israel may be a major issue in the coming years.

One of the sidebar stories of the battle for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nomination is the way in which incumbent Arlen Specter has tried to use his support of Israel in order to fend off the challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak.

Despite his many other failings as a veteran political weather vane devoid of an ounce of principle, Pennsylvania’s senior senator has been a fairly reliable supporter of the Jewish state during his three decades in office. As such, he has been able to command the support of the mainstream pro-Israel community, in all of his re-election battles. Indeed, in 1992, when, in the aftermath of his tough questioning of Anita Hill, Specter had his toughest general-election challenge, his victory over Democrat Lynn Yeakel could well be credited to the Israel factor. Yeakel, a liberal Democrat whose prime motivation for running was to get revenge for Specter’s rough cross-examination of Clarence Thomas’s accuser, was defeated in no small measure because of her membership in a Presbyterian church that was a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement. Yeakel refused to disavow her pastor or the church (a lesson that Barack Obama might well have profited from when he eventually disavowed Jeremiah Wright), and Specter, with the active assistance of local pro-Israel activists, clobbered her for it and was returned to Washington.

Since then the bond between pro-Israel activists and Specter has stood the test of time. Not even Specter’s bizarre championing of the Assad regime, which he repeatedly visited over the years to the consternation of both Republican and Democratic presidents, diminished his ability to rally his co-religionists as he routinely grabbed the lion’s share of the normally monolithic Democratic Jewish vote.

Indeed, though Specter’s party switch last year to save his political skin in the face of certain defeat in a Republican primary left a bad taste in many voters’ mouths, most Jewish Democrats rejoiced that the man that they had voted for as a Republican could now be supported on the more familiar Democratic line. And though Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania are not numerous enough to be able to swing any election, high Jewish turnout in a primary where turnout is expected to be low cannot be dismissed as a non-factor.

Specter also could count on his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak’s far from sterling record on Israel. In 2007, Sestak spoke at a fundraiser for CAIR – the pro-Hamas front group that was implicated in the Holy Land Foundation federal terror prosecution. And he has signed on to congressional letters criticizing Israel’s measures of self-defense against terrorists and refused to back those bipartisan letters backing the Jewish state on the issue of Jerusalem. Though his stands on other foreign-policy issues, such as continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, are better than those of Specter (who tried to curry favor with the left by backing a policy of cutting and running in Afghanistan), Sestak seems to be J Street’s idea of a model congressman.

But the question facing Specter as Pennsylvania Democrats headed to the polls today in the rain is whether even a solid pro-Israel record will be enough to convince Jewish Democrats to stay with him despite a rising anti-incumbent tide. And if, as recent polls indicate, Sestak wins tonight, the stage will be set for a true test of the Jewish vote in November. If the general-election match-up turns out to be a race between Sestak and the conservative but impeccably pro-Israel Pat Toomey, Jewish Democrats who care about Israel will then be forced to choose between their party loyalty and the need to keep a Senate seat in the hands of a friend of the Jewish state. A full-page ad that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent last week lambasted Sestak for his record on Israel and asked voters to “not allow Joe Sestak to represent you in the U.S. Senate.” The ad seemed to draw a line in the sand for some of the prominent Jewish Democrats listed as having signed the statement. If the polls are right and Specter’s long career is now at an end, then those Democrats will have a difficult time explaining a decision to support Sestak against a man like Toomey who can be counted on to stand up to a White House whose animus for Israel may be a major issue in the coming years.

Read Less

Bellwether Battle: Sestak vs. Toomey

With the need to explain his vote against Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan when she was confirmed as solicitor general, and yet another tracking poll showing him losing even more ground to challenger Rep. Joe Sestak, Sen. Arlen Specter has officially been declared “toast” by leftist Philadelphia Daily News blogger Will Bunch.

Bunch is right about Specter being ready for a shmear of cream cheese or butter, but he failed to note the news that supporters of the incumbent must regard with special dread: a new Rasmussen poll indicates that Sestak will be a stronger opponent for Republican Pat Toomey in the fall. In the first tracking poll matching the two Democrats against their all-but-certain Republican opponent in a month, Sestak gained strength as Specter continued to lose ground. A month ago, Toomey led Specter 50 to 40 percent. The latest numbers show the margin now to be 50 to 38. While the same survey showed Sestak trailing Toomey 47-36 a month ago, a new poll shows the race to be a virtual standoff, with Toomey holding only a 42-40 lead.

Wavering Democrats who never liked the idea of the former Republican being their nominee were told by party bigwigs that Specter was their only hope to hold the seat in November, since Sestak was too weak to beat Toomey. But if Specter’s incumbency is a weakness rather than a strength in a general election, then liberals won’t hesitate to abandon him next week in droves.

These numbers just confirm what Bunch and just about everybody else who isn’t a Specter staffer have concluded: the incumbent is finished and Pennsylvania will have one of the most competitive and clearly ideological battles for the Senate in November.

Most Pennsylvania Republicans have been thoroughly enjoying Arlen Specter’s difficulties in convincing his new party’s voters to embrace him. After decades of being represented by a man who always put himself on both sides of every big issue, conservatives, who came close to knocking off Specter in a 2004 GOP primary, are getting a great deal of vicarious pleasure from Sestak’s successful challenge to a Democratic establishment that embraced the slippery incumbent with the same ardor that George W. Bush and Rick Santorum backed him six years ago. But with Sestak pulling even with Toomey in a head-to-head matchup, conservatives need to start thinking clearly about the liberal former admiral.

In the past decade, Pennsylvania’s Senate races have generally been won by whoever could claim the center. But this fall, there will be no race in the nation that presents a starker choice between the parties. In all likelihood, the matchup will feature two candidates, Toomey and Sestak, who represent the conservative and liberal wings of their parties respectively. As a man who won a seat in Congress in 2006 as an anti-war candidate, Sestak may well be able to mobilize the suburban liberal base of the Democratic Party even if he leaves urban minorities cold. And we can expect the liberal-media attack machine to go all-out to tar Toomey as a right-wing fanatic. In response, the stalwartly pro-Israel Toomey will have the chance to hold Sestak accountable for his very shaky stand on the Middle East since the congressman backed a J Street letter on Israel rather than one endorsed by the mainstream pro-Israel AIPAC. And Sestak has never backed away from his appearance in 2007 at a fundraiser for the pro-Hamas CAIR’s Philadelphia chapter.

The point is, once Specter is done, conservatives will have to stop cheering for Sestak and start taking him seriously as a formidable and dangerous opponent.

With the need to explain his vote against Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan when she was confirmed as solicitor general, and yet another tracking poll showing him losing even more ground to challenger Rep. Joe Sestak, Sen. Arlen Specter has officially been declared “toast” by leftist Philadelphia Daily News blogger Will Bunch.

Bunch is right about Specter being ready for a shmear of cream cheese or butter, but he failed to note the news that supporters of the incumbent must regard with special dread: a new Rasmussen poll indicates that Sestak will be a stronger opponent for Republican Pat Toomey in the fall. In the first tracking poll matching the two Democrats against their all-but-certain Republican opponent in a month, Sestak gained strength as Specter continued to lose ground. A month ago, Toomey led Specter 50 to 40 percent. The latest numbers show the margin now to be 50 to 38. While the same survey showed Sestak trailing Toomey 47-36 a month ago, a new poll shows the race to be a virtual standoff, with Toomey holding only a 42-40 lead.

Wavering Democrats who never liked the idea of the former Republican being their nominee were told by party bigwigs that Specter was their only hope to hold the seat in November, since Sestak was too weak to beat Toomey. But if Specter’s incumbency is a weakness rather than a strength in a general election, then liberals won’t hesitate to abandon him next week in droves.

These numbers just confirm what Bunch and just about everybody else who isn’t a Specter staffer have concluded: the incumbent is finished and Pennsylvania will have one of the most competitive and clearly ideological battles for the Senate in November.

Most Pennsylvania Republicans have been thoroughly enjoying Arlen Specter’s difficulties in convincing his new party’s voters to embrace him. After decades of being represented by a man who always put himself on both sides of every big issue, conservatives, who came close to knocking off Specter in a 2004 GOP primary, are getting a great deal of vicarious pleasure from Sestak’s successful challenge to a Democratic establishment that embraced the slippery incumbent with the same ardor that George W. Bush and Rick Santorum backed him six years ago. But with Sestak pulling even with Toomey in a head-to-head matchup, conservatives need to start thinking clearly about the liberal former admiral.

In the past decade, Pennsylvania’s Senate races have generally been won by whoever could claim the center. But this fall, there will be no race in the nation that presents a starker choice between the parties. In all likelihood, the matchup will feature two candidates, Toomey and Sestak, who represent the conservative and liberal wings of their parties respectively. As a man who won a seat in Congress in 2006 as an anti-war candidate, Sestak may well be able to mobilize the suburban liberal base of the Democratic Party even if he leaves urban minorities cold. And we can expect the liberal-media attack machine to go all-out to tar Toomey as a right-wing fanatic. In response, the stalwartly pro-Israel Toomey will have the chance to hold Sestak accountable for his very shaky stand on the Middle East since the congressman backed a J Street letter on Israel rather than one endorsed by the mainstream pro-Israel AIPAC. And Sestak has never backed away from his appearance in 2007 at a fundraiser for the pro-Hamas CAIR’s Philadelphia chapter.

The point is, once Specter is done, conservatives will have to stop cheering for Sestak and start taking him seriously as a formidable and dangerous opponent.

Read Less

Democrats Freak Over GOP Women — Again

Politico reports:

Two of the conservative movement’s biggest stars, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), lavished praise on each other Wednesday at a boisterous rally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Before a predominantly female crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the two high-profile Republicans ripped President Obama at an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Bachmann’s re-election campaign.

Alas, the fellas —  2012 presidential contender and now-Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — slunk into the background. Palin and Bachmann made hay out of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review:

If, in fact, there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time… if they fire against the United States a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or maybe a cyber attack, we won’t be firing back with nuclear weapons,” Bachmann insisted.“Doesn’t that make us feel safe?” she asked to a laughing audience.

The Left does what it usually does when confronted with attractive conservative women: it goes bonkers. Greg Sargent tweets: “Dem talking points bashing Bachmann and Palin are really going to pay huge dividends this fall.” Huh? Let me get this straight: the Democrats in Congress are going to spend their time attacking two women with huge conservative and Tea Party followings, one of whom isn’t in office or on the ballot? Well, it makes about as much sense as running against George W. Bush, a strategy some have suggested is also in the offing.

These are not the tactics of a confident party that is secure in its record and aided by a popular president. It reeks of desperation. And just imagine if Republicans picked two women, neither of whom was in a leadership position, as the focal point of their attacks. They might be accused of having a “female” problem — by Politico, for example.

Politico reports:

Two of the conservative movement’s biggest stars, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), lavished praise on each other Wednesday at a boisterous rally held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Before a predominantly female crowd of more than 11,000 fans, the two high-profile Republicans ripped President Obama at an event that doubled as a fundraiser for Bachmann’s re-election campaign.

Alas, the fellas —  2012 presidential contender and now-Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) — slunk into the background. Palin and Bachmann made hay out of Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review:

If, in fact, there is a nation who is compliant with all the rules ahead of time… if they fire against the United States a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or maybe a cyber attack, we won’t be firing back with nuclear weapons,” Bachmann insisted.“Doesn’t that make us feel safe?” she asked to a laughing audience.

The Left does what it usually does when confronted with attractive conservative women: it goes bonkers. Greg Sargent tweets: “Dem talking points bashing Bachmann and Palin are really going to pay huge dividends this fall.” Huh? Let me get this straight: the Democrats in Congress are going to spend their time attacking two women with huge conservative and Tea Party followings, one of whom isn’t in office or on the ballot? Well, it makes about as much sense as running against George W. Bush, a strategy some have suggested is also in the offing.

These are not the tactics of a confident party that is secure in its record and aided by a popular president. It reeks of desperation. And just imagine if Republicans picked two women, neither of whom was in a leadership position, as the focal point of their attacks. They might be accused of having a “female” problem — by Politico, for example.

Read Less

J Street Loses a Congressional Recruit

Are liberal Democrats starting to be wary of the siren calls of J Street? This story from Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent shows that at least one congressional candidate has figured out that associating with the far-Left lobby can be dangerous for his political health.

The Exponent’s Bryan Schwartzman reports that Doug Pike, one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district, has “asked J Street officials this week to remove him from its list of 41 endorsed candidates, and said he’s planning to return some $6,000 donated via the group.” It appears that Pike, who is fighting for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach, has gotten the message from voters and contributors that aligning himself with J Street is not the path to the hearts or the wallets of pro-Israel Democrats.

Pike, the son of Otis Pike, a onetime New York congressman, is a former Philadelphia Inquirer editorial writer and is locked in a tough fight against Manan Trivedi, a physician and Iraq-war veteran who has got the endorsement of two key Democratic committees in the district, which stretches across three suburban counties in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. Schwartzman says that one pro-Israel fundraiser claims “a number of potential contributors walked away from Pike after the J Street endorsement became known, and after Gerlach — considered a strong Israel backer — decided not to run for governor.”

Pike told the Exponent that “when he first sought J Street’s endorsement back in September, he had underestimated his policy differences with the group.” Of special interest, in the context of this past week’s dispute between the Obama administration and Israel, is that Pike was “troubled” by J Street’s recent stance that Israel halt construction in eastern Jerusalem because J Street has backed Obama against Netanyahu on the issue of plans to build Jewish homes in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood. “People simply assumed when they heard that I was endorsed by J Street that I agreed with them on everything,” said Pike. “The endorsement was an impediment to my being able to explain my convictions about Israel’s security.”

Pike’s attempt to extricate himself from J Street’s death grip may or may not save his candidacy, but it ought to serve as a warning to other Democrats who assume that the group’s claim that it is within the mainstream is true. J Street representatives and other left-wingers have asserted that Obama’s 2008 victory — and his huge share of the Jewish vote — proved that mainstream pro-Israel groups like AIPAC no longer represented the community’s view. But, as Pike has found out, most rank-and-file Jewish Democrats, even those who call themselves liberals, do not support putting pressure on Israel to make more concessions to the Palestinians and are appalled by the administration’s attack on Jewish rights in Jerusalem.

So is the White House, which has become even more brazen in its open contempt for the Israeli government, capable of understanding what Doug Pike has now discovered — that sooner or later, its attitude toward Israel, which is inspired in part by its misconception that J Street is representative of mainstream Jewish opinion, may be a huge political mistake?

Are liberal Democrats starting to be wary of the siren calls of J Street? This story from Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent shows that at least one congressional candidate has figured out that associating with the far-Left lobby can be dangerous for his political health.

The Exponent’s Bryan Schwartzman reports that Doug Pike, one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district, has “asked J Street officials this week to remove him from its list of 41 endorsed candidates, and said he’s planning to return some $6,000 donated via the group.” It appears that Pike, who is fighting for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach, has gotten the message from voters and contributors that aligning himself with J Street is not the path to the hearts or the wallets of pro-Israel Democrats.

Pike, the son of Otis Pike, a onetime New York congressman, is a former Philadelphia Inquirer editorial writer and is locked in a tough fight against Manan Trivedi, a physician and Iraq-war veteran who has got the endorsement of two key Democratic committees in the district, which stretches across three suburban counties in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. Schwartzman says that one pro-Israel fundraiser claims “a number of potential contributors walked away from Pike after the J Street endorsement became known, and after Gerlach — considered a strong Israel backer — decided not to run for governor.”

Pike told the Exponent that “when he first sought J Street’s endorsement back in September, he had underestimated his policy differences with the group.” Of special interest, in the context of this past week’s dispute between the Obama administration and Israel, is that Pike was “troubled” by J Street’s recent stance that Israel halt construction in eastern Jerusalem because J Street has backed Obama against Netanyahu on the issue of plans to build Jewish homes in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood. “People simply assumed when they heard that I was endorsed by J Street that I agreed with them on everything,” said Pike. “The endorsement was an impediment to my being able to explain my convictions about Israel’s security.”

Pike’s attempt to extricate himself from J Street’s death grip may or may not save his candidacy, but it ought to serve as a warning to other Democrats who assume that the group’s claim that it is within the mainstream is true. J Street representatives and other left-wingers have asserted that Obama’s 2008 victory — and his huge share of the Jewish vote — proved that mainstream pro-Israel groups like AIPAC no longer represented the community’s view. But, as Pike has found out, most rank-and-file Jewish Democrats, even those who call themselves liberals, do not support putting pressure on Israel to make more concessions to the Palestinians and are appalled by the administration’s attack on Jewish rights in Jerusalem.

So is the White House, which has become even more brazen in its open contempt for the Israeli government, capable of understanding what Doug Pike has now discovered — that sooner or later, its attitude toward Israel, which is inspired in part by its misconception that J Street is representative of mainstream Jewish opinion, may be a huge political mistake?

Read Less

RE: The AIPAC Crowd

I was at the policy conference today and must concur with Jen’s take: there was a palpable sense of raw emotion at the event, and I suspect that a lot of the worst feelings were held by people who had allowed candidate Obama’s soothing words on Israel to convince them that he would be kind to Israel.

I meandered among several panel discussions and heard regular rounds of applause from the audience in response to criticism of the administration. The attendees I spoke with were not simply upset by the administration’s rough treatment of Israel; they were also well aware that America’s most entrenched rivals have never received the criticism and lectures that Obama has directed at Israel. Even the liberals among them understood on a gut level that this is no way to conduct foreign policy.

Lee Rosenberg, AIPAC’s new president (and a major Obama fundraiser), gave a bluntly critical speech that received three standing ovations. Something tells me that pro-Israel dollars are going to be a little harder for Democrats to come by in the coming years.

The big question is: how will the crowd respond to Hillary Clinton on Monday? I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some booing, and I’d be shocked if there was hearty applause. Booing is something AIPAC officials hope doesn’t happen, because they want the policy conference to be the place where real fence-mending takes place. But I’m not sure it’d be a bad idea for Clinton to hear some boos — not because I think it’s great to boo people, but because Obama has already made clear the signals he responds to: the worse you treat him, the better he treats you, or at least the more he respects you.

I was at the policy conference today and must concur with Jen’s take: there was a palpable sense of raw emotion at the event, and I suspect that a lot of the worst feelings were held by people who had allowed candidate Obama’s soothing words on Israel to convince them that he would be kind to Israel.

I meandered among several panel discussions and heard regular rounds of applause from the audience in response to criticism of the administration. The attendees I spoke with were not simply upset by the administration’s rough treatment of Israel; they were also well aware that America’s most entrenched rivals have never received the criticism and lectures that Obama has directed at Israel. Even the liberals among them understood on a gut level that this is no way to conduct foreign policy.

Lee Rosenberg, AIPAC’s new president (and a major Obama fundraiser), gave a bluntly critical speech that received three standing ovations. Something tells me that pro-Israel dollars are going to be a little harder for Democrats to come by in the coming years.

The big question is: how will the crowd respond to Hillary Clinton on Monday? I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some booing, and I’d be shocked if there was hearty applause. Booing is something AIPAC officials hope doesn’t happen, because they want the policy conference to be the place where real fence-mending takes place. But I’m not sure it’d be a bad idea for Clinton to hear some boos — not because I think it’s great to boo people, but because Obama has already made clear the signals he responds to: the worse you treat him, the better he treats you, or at least the more he respects you.

Read Less

CAIR Seeks to Censor Books on Radical Islam

The Council on American-Islamic Relations came into existence in the early 1990s as a political front for the Holy Land Foundation, a group that raised money in the United States for Hamas terrorists and their network of “charitable” institutions. Since then, the Holy Land Foundation was shut down and prosecuted by the federal government. But its CAIR spin-off has survived and prospered as both government agencies and the media have accepted its pose as a Muslim civil-liberties group as well as its rationalizations of terrorism and opposition to the struggle against Islamist extremists.

The latest instance of CAIR’s duplicitous behavior is the campaign being conducted by its Philadelphia branch to censor a series of textbooks on The World of Islam for young readers, produced by Mason Crest Published in partnership with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, an independent think tank. They are particularly angry with one of the ten books in the set titled Radical Islam, which deals with the threat from Islamist groups. CAIR wants the books to be withdrawn from public libraries and schools. Although the books are respectful of Islam and acknowledge that the vast majority of Muslims are neither terrorists nor engaged in spreading hate, they still note the existence of terrorists and Islamists hate groups. While CAIR’s charges of the books being inaccurate are clearly false, their objective is to simply remove all mentions of Muslim terrorism and Islamist ideology from the public square.

For example, the group objects to this line in one the books, Muslims in America: “some Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism.” As FPRI director Harvey Sicherman told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Well, yes, some people did come to the United States to commit terrorism, and I don’t know how one can quarrel with that sentence.”

While Sicherman and FPRI’s Alan Luxenberg, who wrote Radical Islam, are right to complain that the examples cited by CAIR take their books out of context and unfairly tar a respected and valuable institution with a false charge of religious prejudice, the Muslim group’s agenda isn’t accuracy or tolerance. They regard all mentions of Islamist terrorism — a phenomenon that has become a growing homegrown threat to Americans — as a slur on every Muslim. What they want is to simply remove the conflict with radical Islam from the national conversation.

While it is to be hoped that librarians will reject this call for censorship, CAIR’s Philadelphia branch has demonstrated in the past that it has some friends in high places. In 2007, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak and Governor Ed Rendell appeared at a CAIR fundraiser in Philadelphia, setting off a firestorm of criticism from friends of Israel. Neither Sestak nor Rendell apologized for their support of the group — though the congressman, who is now running for the Democratic nomination to the Senate against incumbent political turncoat Arlen Specter, has tried to distance himself from the incident. But whether or not this comes back to haunt Sestak at the ballot box, the lesson here is the way a dangerous extremist group has been able to whitewash its past and insinuate itself into the mainstream political debate.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations came into existence in the early 1990s as a political front for the Holy Land Foundation, a group that raised money in the United States for Hamas terrorists and their network of “charitable” institutions. Since then, the Holy Land Foundation was shut down and prosecuted by the federal government. But its CAIR spin-off has survived and prospered as both government agencies and the media have accepted its pose as a Muslim civil-liberties group as well as its rationalizations of terrorism and opposition to the struggle against Islamist extremists.

The latest instance of CAIR’s duplicitous behavior is the campaign being conducted by its Philadelphia branch to censor a series of textbooks on The World of Islam for young readers, produced by Mason Crest Published in partnership with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, an independent think tank. They are particularly angry with one of the ten books in the set titled Radical Islam, which deals with the threat from Islamist groups. CAIR wants the books to be withdrawn from public libraries and schools. Although the books are respectful of Islam and acknowledge that the vast majority of Muslims are neither terrorists nor engaged in spreading hate, they still note the existence of terrorists and Islamists hate groups. While CAIR’s charges of the books being inaccurate are clearly false, their objective is to simply remove all mentions of Muslim terrorism and Islamist ideology from the public square.

For example, the group objects to this line in one the books, Muslims in America: “some Muslims began immigrating to the United States in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism.” As FPRI director Harvey Sicherman told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Well, yes, some people did come to the United States to commit terrorism, and I don’t know how one can quarrel with that sentence.”

While Sicherman and FPRI’s Alan Luxenberg, who wrote Radical Islam, are right to complain that the examples cited by CAIR take their books out of context and unfairly tar a respected and valuable institution with a false charge of religious prejudice, the Muslim group’s agenda isn’t accuracy or tolerance. They regard all mentions of Islamist terrorism — a phenomenon that has become a growing homegrown threat to Americans — as a slur on every Muslim. What they want is to simply remove the conflict with radical Islam from the national conversation.

While it is to be hoped that librarians will reject this call for censorship, CAIR’s Philadelphia branch has demonstrated in the past that it has some friends in high places. In 2007, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak and Governor Ed Rendell appeared at a CAIR fundraiser in Philadelphia, setting off a firestorm of criticism from friends of Israel. Neither Sestak nor Rendell apologized for their support of the group — though the congressman, who is now running for the Democratic nomination to the Senate against incumbent political turncoat Arlen Specter, has tried to distance himself from the incident. But whether or not this comes back to haunt Sestak at the ballot box, the lesson here is the way a dangerous extremist group has been able to whitewash its past and insinuate itself into the mainstream political debate.

Read Less

Tom Campbell Will Debate on Terrorism and National Security

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that “Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that “Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

Read Less

The Latest Charlie Crist Headache

As if Charlie Crist didn’t have enough problems, along comes this story about the Florida state Republican Party, which until recently was headed by Crist’s close confidante Jim Greer:

Donors and party activists are livid over newly revealed records that suggest outgoing chairman Jim Greer used the party as a personal slush fund for lavish travel and entertainment. The records also show that executive director Delmar Johnson padded his $103,000 salary with a secret, $260,000 fundraising contract and another $42,000 for expenses — at the same time the once mighty Florida GOP was having to lay off employees amid anemic fundraising. . . .

Greer has long been known as a flamboyant chairman who enjoyed entourages, charter jets and belting out Elvis at party galas. But even the biggest critics of Gov. Charlie Crist’s hand-picked chairman were stunned by revelations that he entered into a lucrative secret contract with a stealth company set up by his most loyal aide de camp, 30-year-old [GOP executive director Delmar] Johnson, a former Crist campaign aide. The contract would pay Johnson a 10 percent commission on all major donations to the state Republican Party.

This will likely become yet another source of angst for Crist, as party activists and ordinary voters question what he knew about his chairman’s activities and how this reflects on his judgment. (“Crist has said he didn’t know about Johnson’s contract, but some activists aren’t satisfied. Crist is the de facto head of the party and its biggest fundraiser.”) It seems as though Marco Rubio’s outsiderness is proving again to be an advantage. For now Rubio is taking a restrained line, calling for an audit “looking at how expenditures have been made in the past and make sure that going forward people are confident when they give money to the Republican party, it’s going toward good things.” Sometimes it is best simply to get out of the way while your opponent is drowning.

As if Charlie Crist didn’t have enough problems, along comes this story about the Florida state Republican Party, which until recently was headed by Crist’s close confidante Jim Greer:

Donors and party activists are livid over newly revealed records that suggest outgoing chairman Jim Greer used the party as a personal slush fund for lavish travel and entertainment. The records also show that executive director Delmar Johnson padded his $103,000 salary with a secret, $260,000 fundraising contract and another $42,000 for expenses — at the same time the once mighty Florida GOP was having to lay off employees amid anemic fundraising. . . .

Greer has long been known as a flamboyant chairman who enjoyed entourages, charter jets and belting out Elvis at party galas. But even the biggest critics of Gov. Charlie Crist’s hand-picked chairman were stunned by revelations that he entered into a lucrative secret contract with a stealth company set up by his most loyal aide de camp, 30-year-old [GOP executive director Delmar] Johnson, a former Crist campaign aide. The contract would pay Johnson a 10 percent commission on all major donations to the state Republican Party.

This will likely become yet another source of angst for Crist, as party activists and ordinary voters question what he knew about his chairman’s activities and how this reflects on his judgment. (“Crist has said he didn’t know about Johnson’s contract, but some activists aren’t satisfied. Crist is the de facto head of the party and its biggest fundraiser.”) It seems as though Marco Rubio’s outsiderness is proving again to be an advantage. For now Rubio is taking a restrained line, calling for an audit “looking at how expenditures have been made in the past and make sure that going forward people are confident when they give money to the Republican party, it’s going toward good things.” Sometimes it is best simply to get out of the way while your opponent is drowning.

Read Less

“In a Word: Disgusting”

A follow-up to Olmert’s day of disgrace. Here’s the veteran political commentator Sima Kadmon, on the revelations about Ehud Olmert’s financial dealings:

In a word: Disgusting. And even that doesn’t serve to fully express the sense of nausea that emerges from the testimony of donor and fundraiser Morris Talansky, who for 15 years, it appears, made sure to maintain the lavish lifestyle of an Israeli mayor and minister.

The testimony that was heard Tuesday at the Jerusalem District Court is not only dramatic; it’s shocking. It is shocking that a public servant demands and receives cash donations, with no receipts, and without any records being kept. It is shocking to think that such senior public figure uses the credit card of an American Jew in order to finance his expenses.

It is shocking that an Israeli public servant receives a $25,000 gift in order to finance a family vacation. It is shocking that a public figure receives gifts worth tens of thousands of shekels for first class upgrades, luxury hotels, restaurants, and vacations. It is shocking to hear about huge loans that were never paid back, even though they loaner demanded payment.

It is possible that parts of the testimony we heard Tuesday are untrue. Other parts may be inaccurate. There are also things that must have an explanation. And perhaps it will turn out that there was no criminal offense here. Yet the behavior described by Talansky is embarrassing and revolting even if we weren’t talking about a public figure: There is nothing sexy about people who live at the expense of others only to satisfy their desires and ostentatious lifestyle. It is much more shocking and horrifying when we are talking about a minister in the Israeli government.

Kadmon’s feelings reflect a wave of revulsion currently sweeping the Israeli media over the Olmert affair. Yet there’s something a little strange about it. Maybe it’s because I live in Jerusalem, where Olmert reigned as mayor for eight years, and every cab driver seems to know about his corruption. Or maybe it’s just that everybody in Israel already knew that this stuff went on, but it never really made the newspapers, and the official public discourse insisted on being much more naive than the man-in-the-street conventional wisdom.

One hopeful sign of the effect of all this loathing: The Olmert affair has the potential to do for financial accountability among public officials what the Katzav affair did for sexual misconduct. As Haaretz commentator Uzi Benziman put it today:

Just as the revelation of how former president Moshe Katsav behaved toward his female subordinates led to a decline in sexual harassment in the public service, so too a peek at Olmert’s behavior with regard to Talansky may well generate a real turning point in the pattern of relationships between the country’s leaders and wealthy Jews from abroad. So far, this seems to be Olmert’s only salient contribution during his term as prime minister.

A follow-up to Olmert’s day of disgrace. Here’s the veteran political commentator Sima Kadmon, on the revelations about Ehud Olmert’s financial dealings:

In a word: Disgusting. And even that doesn’t serve to fully express the sense of nausea that emerges from the testimony of donor and fundraiser Morris Talansky, who for 15 years, it appears, made sure to maintain the lavish lifestyle of an Israeli mayor and minister.

The testimony that was heard Tuesday at the Jerusalem District Court is not only dramatic; it’s shocking. It is shocking that a public servant demands and receives cash donations, with no receipts, and without any records being kept. It is shocking to think that such senior public figure uses the credit card of an American Jew in order to finance his expenses.

It is shocking that an Israeli public servant receives a $25,000 gift in order to finance a family vacation. It is shocking that a public figure receives gifts worth tens of thousands of shekels for first class upgrades, luxury hotels, restaurants, and vacations. It is shocking to hear about huge loans that were never paid back, even though they loaner demanded payment.

It is possible that parts of the testimony we heard Tuesday are untrue. Other parts may be inaccurate. There are also things that must have an explanation. And perhaps it will turn out that there was no criminal offense here. Yet the behavior described by Talansky is embarrassing and revolting even if we weren’t talking about a public figure: There is nothing sexy about people who live at the expense of others only to satisfy their desires and ostentatious lifestyle. It is much more shocking and horrifying when we are talking about a minister in the Israeli government.

Kadmon’s feelings reflect a wave of revulsion currently sweeping the Israeli media over the Olmert affair. Yet there’s something a little strange about it. Maybe it’s because I live in Jerusalem, where Olmert reigned as mayor for eight years, and every cab driver seems to know about his corruption. Or maybe it’s just that everybody in Israel already knew that this stuff went on, but it never really made the newspapers, and the official public discourse insisted on being much more naive than the man-in-the-street conventional wisdom.

One hopeful sign of the effect of all this loathing: The Olmert affair has the potential to do for financial accountability among public officials what the Katzav affair did for sexual misconduct. As Haaretz commentator Uzi Benziman put it today:

Just as the revelation of how former president Moshe Katsav behaved toward his female subordinates led to a decline in sexual harassment in the public service, so too a peek at Olmert’s behavior with regard to Talansky may well generate a real turning point in the pattern of relationships between the country’s leaders and wealthy Jews from abroad. So far, this seems to be Olmert’s only salient contribution during his term as prime minister.

Read Less

McCain On Israel

At his presser Sunday, John McCain was asked about a fundraiser in Palm Beach County, Florida and whether he expected to do better with Jewish voters who have generally voted Democratic in Presidential elections. He carefully emphasized that he is seeking the votes of all Americans, some of whom Republicans have not done enough, he says, to court. He then went on to explain what he offers American Jews and others committed to the survival of Israel:

(Israel) is under incredible threat, the Iranians, Hamas, Hezbollah, all of the other threats that they face, including the president to Iran, that Senator Obama wants to sit down and negotiate with face to face who is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel..I have experience and knowledge and background. I have been to Israel many times. I know their leaders. I understand the issues and I know how to ensure the independence and freedom of the state of Israel. Senator Obama has very little, if any, experience or knowledge about the challenges, and they’re complex and difficult, in the region.

So, while clearly attuned to the concerns of American Jews, McCain is here using Barack Obama’s solicitous stance toward Iran to make a larger point about his fitness to be commander-in-chief. This will remain an issue well beyond the confines of Palm Beach.

At his presser Sunday, John McCain was asked about a fundraiser in Palm Beach County, Florida and whether he expected to do better with Jewish voters who have generally voted Democratic in Presidential elections. He carefully emphasized that he is seeking the votes of all Americans, some of whom Republicans have not done enough, he says, to court. He then went on to explain what he offers American Jews and others committed to the survival of Israel:

(Israel) is under incredible threat, the Iranians, Hamas, Hezbollah, all of the other threats that they face, including the president to Iran, that Senator Obama wants to sit down and negotiate with face to face who is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel..I have experience and knowledge and background. I have been to Israel many times. I know their leaders. I understand the issues and I know how to ensure the independence and freedom of the state of Israel. Senator Obama has very little, if any, experience or knowledge about the challenges, and they’re complex and difficult, in the region.

So, while clearly attuned to the concerns of American Jews, McCain is here using Barack Obama’s solicitous stance toward Iran to make a larger point about his fitness to be commander-in-chief. This will remain an issue well beyond the confines of Palm Beach.

Read Less

Obama’s Photophobia

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.

Barack Obama likes to wax poetic about his diverse coalition, but it seems his defining inclusiveness was a little more ex-clusive a short while back. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Obama refused to be photographed with that city’s pro-gay-marriage mayor, Gavin Newsom, at a benefit four years ago. Most unsporting, considering Newsome was there supporting Obama. Here’s Newsome speaking to Reuters in January 2007: “One of the three Democrats [Gore, Clinton, and Obama] you mentioned as presidential candidates, as God is my witness, will not be photographed with me, will not be in the same room with me.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown confirms the story, and then some:

“I gave a fundraiser, at his (Obama’s) request at the Waterfront restaurant, and he said to me, he would really appreciate it if he didn’t get his photo taken with my mayor. He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin.”

He adds that Obama was uneasy about appearing in San Francisco, period. Brown suspects Obama was afraid to turn-off conservative Illinois voters during his senate race. The story has led to the best denial since the Monica years. “Barack Obama gets his picture taken with gay people all the time,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand said. (He makes it sound like the senator’s hobby.)

I guess Obama has gone through a change we can believe in. As recently as his victory in South Carolina he said, “We’re up against the idea that it’s acceptable to say anything and do anything to win an election. But we know that this is exactly what’s wrong with our politics.”

This first chink in Obama’s cuddly armor won’t be nearly enough to make his acolytes rethink their image of him. But if he does become the Democratic nominee and more such stories are revealed, he’s going to have a hard time facing a disenchanted base. He’s supposed to be the non-divisive antidote to Billary’s calculation. But cynical politcal maneuvering like this makes Obama look suspiciously like the other leading Democratic candidate. If he’s seen as just another Clinton, I predict he’ll be scrambling to get photographed on top of Elton John’s piano.

Read Less

Getting to Know Beverly Sills

Commemorating a cultural figure like Beverly Sills (1929–2007), who died last week of lung cancer at 78, is not easy. After a much-publicized career as a coloratura soprano, Sills served as general director of the New York City Opera and chairwoman of Lincoln Center, and later of the Metropolitan Opera. On July 3, in a bizarre tribute, the New York Philharmonic gave a conductorless performance, purportedly in her honor, of a work that most certainly requires a conductor—Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. (The Philharmonic’s press office announced that this silly “tradition began with the death of Bernstein.”)

Read More

Commemorating a cultural figure like Beverly Sills (1929–2007), who died last week of lung cancer at 78, is not easy. After a much-publicized career as a coloratura soprano, Sills served as general director of the New York City Opera and chairwoman of Lincoln Center, and later of the Metropolitan Opera. On July 3, in a bizarre tribute, the New York Philharmonic gave a conductorless performance, purportedly in her honor, of a work that most certainly requires a conductor—Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. (The Philharmonic’s press office announced that this silly “tradition began with the death of Bernstein.”)

A far better way to honor Sills would be to address a problem mentioned in an astute obituary by critic Tim Page: the fact that Sills made most of her studio recordings after her voice had already begun to deteriorate. Exceptions may be heard on VAI, including a 1969 concert DVD of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, a 1964 Offenbach Tales of Hoffmann from New Orleans, and a 1968 Handel Julius Caesar from Buenos Aires, conducted by Karl Richter. Deutsche Grammophon alos offers a few choice recordings, including a 1958 Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore, a 1969 Donizetti Roberto Devereux led by Charles Mackerras, and a 1970 Donizetti Lucia Di Lammermoor conducted by Thomas Schippers. These and a few other high points are slim pickings for a singer who banked on the sensuous sheen of her voice as a major part of her artistry, in addition to acting smarts and a surprisingly agile stage presence. Sills’s actual performing is probably less known today than her post-retirement persona of jolly, steel-willed fundraiser and promoter of culture.

Getting closer to Beverly Sills—and away from Sylvia Bills—would require transferring to CD a number of surviving performance tapes. They would include a 1967 Handel Semele from Cleveland led by Robert Shaw, and a 1966 production of Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie co-starring Placido Domingo. Sills’s work in contemporary music, like a Boston performance of Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza from 1965 conducted by Bruno Maderna, or a 1959 New York City Opera staging of Hugo Weisgall’s Pirandello-based opera, Six Characters in Search of an Author, should be of high interest. Roles that Sills eventually repudiated for extra-musical reasons (like the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, which can be heard in a 1966 Tanglewood version led by Erich Leinsdorf, or Suor Angelica in a 1967 City Opera performance of Puccini’s Il Trittico) would also make essential listening on CD.

Add to these a number of concert works never recorded in the studio, like a 1967 rendition of Poulenc’s Gloria from the Caramoor Festival, and a number of Boston Symphony events conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, like a 1966 Schumann Scenes from Goethe’s Faust; 1967 and 1968 versions of Haydn’s Creation Mass; and a 1969 Beethoven Ninth Symphony from Tanglewood. These and other documents from her vocal prime, if made available on CD, would be revelatory posthumous tributes to Beverly Sills.

Read Less

Al Gore’s Hypothetical Candidacy

Al Gore’s Oscar was as predictable as the thunderous ovations he received at the Academy Awards last night. But it was also a reminder that there is nothing Democrats love more than a politician who isn’t actually running for President. Ever since liberals began mythologizing JFK, the party’s nominees invariably fail to measure up. It’s as if any politician who has the guts to enter the arena and dirty his hands immediately loses “purity,” and faces a cynical column from Joe Klein. As a result, come primary season, the Democratic chattering class always falls in love with a hypothetical candidate: Mario Cuomo, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Colin Powell, The West Wing’s Josiah Bartlett.
This is the real meaning behind last week’s Hillary-Obama feud. Hillary is the most successful fundraiser in the party’s history. Her name is known to 100 percent of voters—something that no Democrat has ever achieved this early in a presidential campaign. Yet no one should be surprised, now that she is in reach of becoming the party’s nominee, that the same political and financial backers who cheered her during her White House days are racing to tear her down.

Read More

Al Gore’s Oscar was as predictable as the thunderous ovations he received at the Academy Awards last night. But it was also a reminder that there is nothing Democrats love more than a politician who isn’t actually running for President. Ever since liberals began mythologizing JFK, the party’s nominees invariably fail to measure up. It’s as if any politician who has the guts to enter the arena and dirty his hands immediately loses “purity,” and faces a cynical column from Joe Klein. As a result, come primary season, the Democratic chattering class always falls in love with a hypothetical candidate: Mario Cuomo, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Colin Powell, The West Wing’s Josiah Bartlett.
This is the real meaning behind last week’s Hillary-Obama feud. Hillary is the most successful fundraiser in the party’s history. Her name is known to 100 percent of voters—something that no Democrat has ever achieved this early in a presidential campaign. Yet no one should be surprised, now that she is in reach of becoming the party’s nominee, that the same political and financial backers who cheered her during her White House days are racing to tear her down.

But this will be a short-lived story. It is a safe bet that buyer’s remorse over Barack Obama will set in by this fall as E.J. Dionne, Arianna Huffington, and Jonathan Alter complain about his failings. (In fact, Joe Klein has already started.)

In the meantime, these early grenades tossed in Hillary’s direction are, I would argue, ultimately good for her candidacy. A fractious, heated primary, with Obama, Edwards, and possibly Gore lining up to her Left allows her to pursue a centrist triangulation strategy that makes her seem measured, reasonable, and non-ideological. Were Hillary to be the party’s runaway favorite this early on, we would be reading nothing but stories about her shady dealings with cattle futures and the Rose law firm. Instead, we will be reading more about how this really ought to be Al Gore’s time.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.