Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jan Schakowsky

The Irresponsible Left’s Deficit-Cutting Plan

We learn from this report:

One of the most liberal members of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission unveiled her own plan Tuesday to balance the budget: Keep Social Security benefits intact, make deep reductions at the Pentagon and raise corporate taxes to target profits and excessive pay for chief executives.

This is important for several reasons. First, it comes from not only one of  the most liberal but also one of the  least influential members of Congress, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Second, it bears little resemblance to what came out of the president’s debt commission. Third, it reflects a total unawareness that we are in the midst of a war (“she proposes to take virtually all of the cuts from the military, slicing $110 billion from the defense budget in 2015 by reducing troop levels, cutting weapons systems, and scaling back wartime spending”). In sum, it is the perfect distillation of the irresponsible left, which imagines that we can simply decide not to defend ourselves, savage the “rich,” and — presto — become a more secure and prosperous country.

It’s good to know that this is not the starting point for deficit debate (that was the debt-commission plan). It is also a helpful reminder of what the Pelosi Democrats would do if they had their druthers.

We learn from this report:

One of the most liberal members of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission unveiled her own plan Tuesday to balance the budget: Keep Social Security benefits intact, make deep reductions at the Pentagon and raise corporate taxes to target profits and excessive pay for chief executives.

This is important for several reasons. First, it comes from not only one of  the most liberal but also one of the  least influential members of Congress, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Second, it bears little resemblance to what came out of the president’s debt commission. Third, it reflects a total unawareness that we are in the midst of a war (“she proposes to take virtually all of the cuts from the military, slicing $110 billion from the defense budget in 2015 by reducing troop levels, cutting weapons systems, and scaling back wartime spending”). In sum, it is the perfect distillation of the irresponsible left, which imagines that we can simply decide not to defend ourselves, savage the “rich,” and — presto — become a more secure and prosperous country.

It’s good to know that this is not the starting point for deficit debate (that was the debt-commission plan). It is also a helpful reminder of what the Pelosi Democrats would do if they had their druthers.

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RE: Debt Commission Surprises

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

J Street throws in the towel, conceding that co-founder Daniel Levy said, “I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me — it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong.” The Soros Street gang even provides video.

The PA throws the offer of a settlement freeze back in Bibi’s face. “Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday stated that the Palestinian Authority unreservedly rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer of a renewed building freeze in the West Bank in exchange for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home.” I guess it’s not all about the settlements.

Voters are ready to throw out the Dems and with them, the Obama agenda. In every policy area listed (including the economy, spending, ethics, immigration, health care, and terrorism), at least 50 percent of voters think the Democrats’ policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

And more and more voters want to throw them out every day. The GOP hits a high in the RCP generic congressional polling, with an 8.2 point advantage.

Maybe it’s time for the Dems to throw a Hail Mary: “Democratic concerns about the House playing field broadening to record levels appear to only be getting worse as reports that Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are vulnerable surfaced over the weekend. … The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue [its unsupported allegation that the Chamber of Commerce collects overseas money for campaign donations], instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.”

Attacking mythical foreign donors isn’t working, so Obama throws this into the mix: “President Obama on Monday called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ to the nation’s infrastructure that involves a $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, railways and electric grids he says are ‘woefully’ inadequate.” Excuse me, but wasn’t this what the stimulus was going to be used for? We’ve spent under Bush and Obama a couple of trillion, and we still need to spend more because that amount didn’t cover things we absolutely need? You can see why voters are infuriated.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) throws out a few arguments in favor of ObamaCare’s constitutionality. None of them fly. She turns heel. I sometimes get the idea that liberals are unaccustomed and unprepared to have their deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs challenged.

J Street throws in the towel, conceding that co-founder Daniel Levy said, “I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me — it was good enough for me — an act that was wrong.” The Soros Street gang even provides video.

The PA throws the offer of a settlement freeze back in Bibi’s face. “Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat on Monday stated that the Palestinian Authority unreservedly rejected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s offer of a renewed building freeze in the West Bank in exchange for PA recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home.” I guess it’s not all about the settlements.

Voters are ready to throw out the Dems and with them, the Obama agenda. In every policy area listed (including the economy, spending, ethics, immigration, health care, and terrorism), at least 50 percent of voters think the Democrats’ policies are taking us in the wrong direction.

And more and more voters want to throw them out every day. The GOP hits a high in the RCP generic congressional polling, with an 8.2 point advantage.

Maybe it’s time for the Dems to throw a Hail Mary: “Democratic concerns about the House playing field broadening to record levels appear to only be getting worse as reports that Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) are vulnerable surfaced over the weekend. … The fact that the White House is focused on an inside-baseball campaign finance issue [its unsupported allegation that the Chamber of Commerce collects overseas money for campaign donations], instead of the economy shows how bad the political environment is for Democrats this year.”

Attacking mythical foreign donors isn’t working, so Obama throws this into the mix: “President Obama on Monday called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ to the nation’s infrastructure that involves a $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, railways and electric grids he says are ‘woefully’ inadequate.” Excuse me, but wasn’t this what the stimulus was going to be used for? We’ve spent under Bush and Obama a couple of trillion, and we still need to spend more because that amount didn’t cover things we absolutely need? You can see why voters are infuriated.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) throws out a few arguments in favor of ObamaCare’s constitutionality. None of them fly. She turns heel. I sometimes get the idea that liberals are unaccustomed and unprepared to have their deeply held, unsubstantiated beliefs challenged.

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J Street’s Dead End

Easy prediction: the revelation that J Street has been underwritten by George Soros, who has used the anti-Semitic canard that Jews cause anti-Semitism, and a mystery woman from Hong Kong, and that it has lied about its Soros connection, will spell the end of J Street. It might limp along, but its days as a player — or wanna-be player, more precisely — are over. The Jewish press has excoriated it. Mainstream Jewish leaders are doing the same. Eli Lake, who broke the initial  story of the Soros connection, reports:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group. … Mr. Hoenlein said “this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house.”

More important, it has become politically radioactive. The White House wouldn’t comment on Soros Street or whether it will enjoy the same cozy relationship it did when it concealed its Soros ties. Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Eric Cantor turned up the heat:

In an interview Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and House minority whip, said: “The White House needs to disassociate itself from J Street, denounce J Street and cut off all ties.”

Mr. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, added that “I am hopeful this revelation will now cause people to begin to ignore what they say. They are not reflecting the mainstream position of the pro-Israel community in America, nor do I think they help benefit the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

J Street’s beneficiaries, like Rep. Steve Cohen, are offering a nominal defense, but it’s hard to see others throwing themselves on Soros’s grenade.

Joel Pollak, who is running against J Street endorsee Jan Schakowsky, is calling on his opponent to give back the Soros money:

Jan Schakowsky is one of the top recipients of campaign cash from J Street, the far-left organization that opposes Israel at every opportunity. It turns out that J Street has taken $750,000 from George Soros, despite the earlier denials of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. And J Street took even more money–almost half of its budget–from a foreign donor in Hong Kong. The organization has lost any credibility it may have had.

Thus far this election cycle, Schakowsky has received tens of thousands of dollars from J Street–close to $50,000, according to OpenSecrets.org, and perhaps twice as much in reality. J Street has made me their #1 target in the 2010 election, because I have taken on their leaders and their misguided policies–and also because I received the endorsement of Alan Dershowitz, whom J Street attacks, among other Jewish leaders. … In February, Jan Schakowsky boasted: “I’ve been a supporter of J Street since its inception.” In June, she thanked J Street for its money. Today, it’s time for her to cut her ties to J Street and give back the cash.

How long before others do the same?

J Street operated under the guise that it was a legitimate grassroots, pro-Israel organization. Its positions have demonstrated that it is anything but pro-Israel. The Soros revelation demonstrates that it is not a genuine expression of  “liberal Zionism” (we’ll leave discussion of that oxymoron for another time). If Democrats are really concerned with the influence of shadowy money in politics, cutting ties and returning the dirty Soros Street loot is the best way to prove their concern for the health of our democratic process. And you don’t need a law that tramples on the First Amendment to do it. Just give back the cash.

Easy prediction: the revelation that J Street has been underwritten by George Soros, who has used the anti-Semitic canard that Jews cause anti-Semitism, and a mystery woman from Hong Kong, and that it has lied about its Soros connection, will spell the end of J Street. It might limp along, but its days as a player — or wanna-be player, more precisely — are over. The Jewish press has excoriated it. Mainstream Jewish leaders are doing the same. Eli Lake, who broke the initial  story of the Soros connection, reports:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group. … Mr. Hoenlein said “this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house.”

More important, it has become politically radioactive. The White House wouldn’t comment on Soros Street or whether it will enjoy the same cozy relationship it did when it concealed its Soros ties. Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Eric Cantor turned up the heat:

In an interview Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and House minority whip, said: “The White House needs to disassociate itself from J Street, denounce J Street and cut off all ties.”

Mr. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, added that “I am hopeful this revelation will now cause people to begin to ignore what they say. They are not reflecting the mainstream position of the pro-Israel community in America, nor do I think they help benefit the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

J Street’s beneficiaries, like Rep. Steve Cohen, are offering a nominal defense, but it’s hard to see others throwing themselves on Soros’s grenade.

Joel Pollak, who is running against J Street endorsee Jan Schakowsky, is calling on his opponent to give back the Soros money:

Jan Schakowsky is one of the top recipients of campaign cash from J Street, the far-left organization that opposes Israel at every opportunity. It turns out that J Street has taken $750,000 from George Soros, despite the earlier denials of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. And J Street took even more money–almost half of its budget–from a foreign donor in Hong Kong. The organization has lost any credibility it may have had.

Thus far this election cycle, Schakowsky has received tens of thousands of dollars from J Street–close to $50,000, according to OpenSecrets.org, and perhaps twice as much in reality. J Street has made me their #1 target in the 2010 election, because I have taken on their leaders and their misguided policies–and also because I received the endorsement of Alan Dershowitz, whom J Street attacks, among other Jewish leaders. … In February, Jan Schakowsky boasted: “I’ve been a supporter of J Street since its inception.” In June, she thanked J Street for its money. Today, it’s time for her to cut her ties to J Street and give back the cash.

How long before others do the same?

J Street operated under the guise that it was a legitimate grassroots, pro-Israel organization. Its positions have demonstrated that it is anything but pro-Israel. The Soros revelation demonstrates that it is not a genuine expression of  “liberal Zionism” (we’ll leave discussion of that oxymoron for another time). If Democrats are really concerned with the influence of shadowy money in politics, cutting ties and returning the dirty Soros Street loot is the best way to prove their concern for the health of our democratic process. And you don’t need a law that tramples on the First Amendment to do it. Just give back the cash.

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Will J Street Weigh Down Its Endorsed Candidates?

Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.

In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.

This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?

Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.

J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.

Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?

J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval?  It’s hard to see why they would.

Last week, I questioned whether J Street had become more trouble than its worth to liberal Democratic candidates. In its highest-profile race — the Sestak-Toomey Pennsylvania Senate contest — the answer is clearly no.

In response to the Emergency Committee for Israel’s (ECI) ad buy and the ensuing flurry of news stories, J Street, with great fanfare, announced an ad buy of its own. However, a knowledgeable source provides me with numbers that demonstrate that the buy is puny — a grand total of $6,000. The J Street movers and shakers plunked down all of $2,600 for Philly cable. In Pittsburgh, J Street has spread its largess to the tune of $3,250. In Harrisburg — hold on to your hats — $150 was thrown about for their endorsed candidate.

This, folks, is a pittance. J Street’s biggest “contribution” is to bog Joe Sestak down in controversy. The group’s Gaza 54 letter, which Sestak signed, is one of the pillars of a now widely distributed ad going after Sestak’s Israel bona fides. His endorsement by J Street and the series of positions he has taken that have met with J Street’s favor (not to mention the letter to the UN Human Rights Council, which smacks of J Street accommodation with Israel-bashers) have made prominent an issue Sestak plainly doesn’t want to be front and center. And yet it is — not only by virtue of ECI’s ad but also because of the free media attention it has garnered — with J Street’s help. Is this the sort of help a liberal candidate really needs in a very tough election year?

Moreover, J Street’s own agenda – defending Obama “unconditionally” — seems to take precedence over the needs of individual congressmen. Does Sestak really benefit from an ad with a picture of Obama speaking at the UN and praising the president’s Middle East approach? It is very hard to see how. It’s certainly not going to make Jewish voters less nervous about him.

J Street seems to want to do two contradictory things — be controversial and antagonistic toward robust supporters of Israel (e.g., AIPAC, ECI) and also be influential in House and Senate races. Unfortunately for the Democrats in those races, J Street’s behavior infects their campaigns.

Here is a small but telling example. Joel Pollak (no relation to Noah), a fresh Republican face and strong friend of Israel, has gained the support of Alan Dershowitz against the Israel-bashing and J Street–endorsed Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th. Pollak relates the following on his Facebook page:

Today is Tisha B’Av, when Jews traditionally commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem and mourn other tragedies in our history. Last night, as the holiday began, the new left-wing lobby known as J Street threw a cocktail party in downtown Chicago. The featured guest was J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. Since J Street has refused any previous request to debate the issues with me, I went down to speak to Ben-Ami & Co. myself.

One of my opponent’s senior staffers was there, as were about a dozen J Street staff and supporters. Ben-Ami was cordial, but seemed indifferent to the significance of the day. I asked him why J Street’s new ad attacks Joe Lieberman, who is well respected in the Jewish community. He described Lieberman–who supports direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians towards a two-state solution–as an “obstacle” to peace.

“If you showed the same enthusiasm in opposing Iran and Hamas as you do in fighting Alan Dershowitz, Elie Wiesel, and Joe Lieberman,” I said, “perhaps J Street would be more popular.” I also asked Ben-Ami about his organization’s attempt to use the federal government to target Jewish charities that may provide services to Israelis living across the 1949 armistice line. Why not investigate Islamic charities that fund anti-Israel views?

“I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities,” was Ben-Ami’s exact quote.

Now, does this help Pollak’s opponent or Pollak?

J Street brings its own baggage to midterm races but not much cash. Once candidates figure this out, will they really want a J Street stamp of approval?  It’s hard to see why they would.

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Will Obama’s Israel Policy Inflict Damage in the Midterms?

This report on the impact of Obama’s Israel policy on the midterm elections should be read in full. Particularly telling are the Obama sycophants in the Jewish community. How do you defend the worst presidential record on Israel in recent memory? There are two options.

First, deny there is anything wrong — anything at all — with Obama’s policy. For ludicrous spin, nothing quite matches the National Democratic Jewish Council: “The U.S.-Israel alliance ‘has never been stronger or more strategically aligned than it is today,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.” Statements like that reveal the group is nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party. Harris doesn’t have much to work with when defending a president who has condemned the Jewish state, demanded unilateral concessions from Israel, insulted the prime minister, recited the Palestinian-victim narrative from Cairo but has not visited Israel, hinted about (and then retreated from) an imposed peace deal, singled out Israel in an NPT statement (and then told Bibi he didn’t mean anything by it) and refused to commit America to Israel’s defense against an existential threat (to the contrary, has suggested military force against Iran is off the table). However, for the sake of his own credibility, he’d be wise to stop the over-the-top flackery.

Another option is to take refuge in the notion that many American Jews don’t give much thought to Israel. J Street — which says (but only some of the time) that it is pro-Israel — seems downright pleased that many Jews are more concerned with ObamaCare and global warming than with the Jewish state:

J Street officials boast that their political action committee has distributed more money to candidates for the 2010 elections – some $680,000 – than during the entire 2008 campaign. But J Street also argues that Israel policy is not a top priority for most Jewish voters. The group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said a recent poll it commissioned found that less than 10 percent of American Jews cited Israel as one of their top two voting issues.

“It’s really a small percentage for whom this is a top-tier issue,” Ben-Ami said.

For a guy trying to pass himself off as Israel’s friend, he doesn’t sound like this is a problem — or like his job is to elevate Israel to the top tier of concerns.

But out in the country where real candidates are running, and where real voters roll their eyes over Beltway spin, there will be contests in which Israel plays a key role. As The Hill points out,  the J Street endorsed Joe Sestak (a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter and a friend of CAIR) is facing a tough challenge from Pat Toomey, who has been hammering at this and other issues as evidence of Sestak’s extreme leftism. There are important House races as well:

The battle between J Street and other Jewish groups has flared in a House race in Illinois, where incumbent Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D), has come under fire from a Republican challenger, Joel Pollak, for her stance on Israel. Pollack won the endorsement of Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat known for his hawkish support of Israel. In response, J Street circulated an online fund-raising petition for Schakowsky, collecting $40,000 in a day.

Now, the most compelling evidence that Obama’s Israel policy has been a flop and has domestic political consequences comes from the White House itself. Had Obama not polluted the U.S.-Israel relationship and shocked even faithful Democratic supporters, would he have launched a “charm offensive”? Had a do-over meeting with Bibi? Maybe he isn’t the swellest pro-Israel president ever.

This report on the impact of Obama’s Israel policy on the midterm elections should be read in full. Particularly telling are the Obama sycophants in the Jewish community. How do you defend the worst presidential record on Israel in recent memory? There are two options.

First, deny there is anything wrong — anything at all — with Obama’s policy. For ludicrous spin, nothing quite matches the National Democratic Jewish Council: “The U.S.-Israel alliance ‘has never been stronger or more strategically aligned than it is today,’ said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.” Statements like that reveal the group is nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party. Harris doesn’t have much to work with when defending a president who has condemned the Jewish state, demanded unilateral concessions from Israel, insulted the prime minister, recited the Palestinian-victim narrative from Cairo but has not visited Israel, hinted about (and then retreated from) an imposed peace deal, singled out Israel in an NPT statement (and then told Bibi he didn’t mean anything by it) and refused to commit America to Israel’s defense against an existential threat (to the contrary, has suggested military force against Iran is off the table). However, for the sake of his own credibility, he’d be wise to stop the over-the-top flackery.

Another option is to take refuge in the notion that many American Jews don’t give much thought to Israel. J Street — which says (but only some of the time) that it is pro-Israel — seems downright pleased that many Jews are more concerned with ObamaCare and global warming than with the Jewish state:

J Street officials boast that their political action committee has distributed more money to candidates for the 2010 elections – some $680,000 – than during the entire 2008 campaign. But J Street also argues that Israel policy is not a top priority for most Jewish voters. The group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said a recent poll it commissioned found that less than 10 percent of American Jews cited Israel as one of their top two voting issues.

“It’s really a small percentage for whom this is a top-tier issue,” Ben-Ami said.

For a guy trying to pass himself off as Israel’s friend, he doesn’t sound like this is a problem — or like his job is to elevate Israel to the top tier of concerns.

But out in the country where real candidates are running, and where real voters roll their eyes over Beltway spin, there will be contests in which Israel plays a key role. As The Hill points out,  the J Street endorsed Joe Sestak (a signatory on the Gaza 54 letter and a friend of CAIR) is facing a tough challenge from Pat Toomey, who has been hammering at this and other issues as evidence of Sestak’s extreme leftism. There are important House races as well:

The battle between J Street and other Jewish groups has flared in a House race in Illinois, where incumbent Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D), has come under fire from a Republican challenger, Joel Pollak, for her stance on Israel. Pollack won the endorsement of Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat known for his hawkish support of Israel. In response, J Street circulated an online fund-raising petition for Schakowsky, collecting $40,000 in a day.

Now, the most compelling evidence that Obama’s Israel policy has been a flop and has domestic political consequences comes from the White House itself. Had Obama not polluted the U.S.-Israel relationship and shocked even faithful Democratic supporters, would he have launched a “charm offensive”? Had a do-over meeting with Bibi? Maybe he isn’t the swellest pro-Israel president ever.

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J Street Is Ba-a-a-ck

When last we left the J Street gang, they were enjoying their Washington confab — though with many fewer congressional “hosts” once it became clear what the group’s agenda really was and what sort of Israel-bashing “artists” planned to entertain the assembled crowd. Then the conference itself proved informative. We learned that the J Streeters didn’t fancy calling themselves “pro-Israel,” at least not on college campuses. And we learned that what really got their juices flowing was a healthy dose of anti-anti-Iranian-regime propaganda and good old-fashioned neocon-bashing. Alas, there’s not much of a market for that on Capitol Hill, so their “lobbying” devolved into some mushy nothingness in which lawmakers were asked to do something to show they favored a two-state solution. (Gutsy stuff from these J Streeters, eh?)

Soon afterward we learned that J Street and NIAC shared some interesting conference calls, the object of which seemed to be, among other things, to get Dennis Ross. J Street didn’t like any of the Iran-sanction measures floating around Congress but seemed powerless to influence the votes.

So now that our memories are refreshed (ever since “engagement with Iran” became a laugh line, they’ve been sort of quiet), we see this report that J Street will “be increasing the number and amount of its contributions to US Congressional candidates by at least 50 percent in the coming year. The announcement comes a few weeks ahead of J Street’s first planned trip to bring members of Congress to Israel.” One wonders if Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson are to be the tour guides.

And who are the recipients of the not-to-be-called-pro-Israel-if-it’s-inconvenient gang’s largesse? There are a bunch:

The 41 endorsees include one Republican, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and one of the two Muslim members of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Eight Jewish members also received JStreetPAC’s nod, including representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Susan Davis of California, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and John Yarmuth of Kentucky, as well as the only senator on the list, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Also on the list are Bob Filner of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

Well, no one can excuse himself by pleading ignorance this time around, as did many of the “hosts” when confronted with J Street’s record in October. These lawmakers must be well aware of J Street’s anti-anti-Iran agenda and be quite enamored of its Israel-can-do-no-right rhetoric. One wonders if these lawmakers’ constituents share these views. That’s what elections are for, I suppose. We’ll find out soon enough whether there’s a market for Israel-bashing and Iran-sanction opposition.

When last we left the J Street gang, they were enjoying their Washington confab — though with many fewer congressional “hosts” once it became clear what the group’s agenda really was and what sort of Israel-bashing “artists” planned to entertain the assembled crowd. Then the conference itself proved informative. We learned that the J Streeters didn’t fancy calling themselves “pro-Israel,” at least not on college campuses. And we learned that what really got their juices flowing was a healthy dose of anti-anti-Iranian-regime propaganda and good old-fashioned neocon-bashing. Alas, there’s not much of a market for that on Capitol Hill, so their “lobbying” devolved into some mushy nothingness in which lawmakers were asked to do something to show they favored a two-state solution. (Gutsy stuff from these J Streeters, eh?)

Soon afterward we learned that J Street and NIAC shared some interesting conference calls, the object of which seemed to be, among other things, to get Dennis Ross. J Street didn’t like any of the Iran-sanction measures floating around Congress but seemed powerless to influence the votes.

So now that our memories are refreshed (ever since “engagement with Iran” became a laugh line, they’ve been sort of quiet), we see this report that J Street will “be increasing the number and amount of its contributions to US Congressional candidates by at least 50 percent in the coming year. The announcement comes a few weeks ahead of J Street’s first planned trip to bring members of Congress to Israel.” One wonders if Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson are to be the tour guides.

And who are the recipients of the not-to-be-called-pro-Israel-if-it’s-inconvenient gang’s largesse? There are a bunch:

The 41 endorsees include one Republican, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and one of the two Muslim members of Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. Eight Jewish members also received JStreetPAC’s nod, including representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Susan Davis of California, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and John Yarmuth of Kentucky, as well as the only senator on the list, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Also on the list are Bob Filner of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

Well, no one can excuse himself by pleading ignorance this time around, as did many of the “hosts” when confronted with J Street’s record in October. These lawmakers must be well aware of J Street’s anti-anti-Iran agenda and be quite enamored of its Israel-can-do-no-right rhetoric. One wonders if these lawmakers’ constituents share these views. That’s what elections are for, I suppose. We’ll find out soon enough whether there’s a market for Israel-bashing and Iran-sanction opposition.

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Friedman’s Folly

Thomas Friedman is the second- or third-best columnist at the New York Times. Admittedly that’s damning with faint praise. But he does know a fair amount about the Middle East and some other topics, and even if he repeats himself far too often (especially on the need for ending oil dependency), and gets a lot of things wrong (such as his support for the Oslo Peace Process), and exaggerates in those areas where he’s basically right (his support of globalization), I find him often worth a read, which is more than I can say for some of his colleagues. But in yesterday’s newspaper, Friedman sounded more like a talk-radio blowhard than the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign-affairs columnist for the Newspaper of Record. (Read his column free here.)

In yesterday’s Times, Friedman went for cheap and easy populist point-scoring. He excoriated Iraqi parliamentarians for taking August off while our troops swelter in the Iraq heat wearing body armor. “Here’s what I think of that: I think it’s a travesty,” he exclaimed—words you can easily imagine coming out of the mouth of Lou Dobbs or Bill O’Reilly or someone else not normally to be confused with Tom Friedman.

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Thomas Friedman is the second- or third-best columnist at the New York Times. Admittedly that’s damning with faint praise. But he does know a fair amount about the Middle East and some other topics, and even if he repeats himself far too often (especially on the need for ending oil dependency), and gets a lot of things wrong (such as his support for the Oslo Peace Process), and exaggerates in those areas where he’s basically right (his support of globalization), I find him often worth a read, which is more than I can say for some of his colleagues. But in yesterday’s newspaper, Friedman sounded more like a talk-radio blowhard than the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign-affairs columnist for the Newspaper of Record. (Read his column free here.)

In yesterday’s Times, Friedman went for cheap and easy populist point-scoring. He excoriated Iraqi parliamentarians for taking August off while our troops swelter in the Iraq heat wearing body armor. “Here’s what I think of that: I think it’s a travesty,” he exclaimed—words you can easily imagine coming out of the mouth of Lou Dobbs or Bill O’Reilly or someone else not normally to be confused with Tom Friedman.

The rest of Friedman’s column was equally simplistic. He proposes that we “draft the country’s best negotiators—Henry Kissinger, Jim Baker, George Shultz, George Mitchell, Dennis Ross, or Richard Holbrooke” and send them to Baghdad to either force the Iraqi factions to reach a political deal to settle all their problems, or report back that no such deal is possible. Friedman gives no reason to think that any of these gentlemen would have any better luck than the negotiators we’ve had in Baghdad before—diplomats of formidable accomplishment such as John Negroponte and Zalmay Khalilzad.

While it’s true that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political, we won’t achieve a political deal unless we can create a more secure environment in which to negotiate. Thus, as I argued on the Times op-ed page in an article designed to deflate the very argument that Friedman now makes, our focus at the moment has to be military, not political or diplomatic.

We need above all to defeat Shiite and Sunni extremists who are holding the more moderate elements of their communities hostage. In this endeavor, U.S. troops are hardly alone. Iraqi cops and soldiers are fighting alongside them and actually suffering higher casualties—two to three times more killed and wounded. So much for Friedman’s offensive inference that Americans are dying to save Iraq while Iraqis won’t lift a finger to help their own country.

His attempted analogy between U.S. troops (“fighting in the heat”) and Iraqi legislators (“on vacation in August so they can be cool”) is bogus in any case. The better parallel is between Iraqi and American legislators. The Iraqis could certainly do better, but they are also risking their lives and their relatives’ lives to serve, not something that could be said of American senators and congressmen.

For the past few weeks—before they take off on their own August recess—our legislators have hardly been a profile in courage or perspicacity. Democrats and some Republicans have been loudly screaming to “end the war” even while showing scant interest in what will happen after U.S. troops are gone.

This Los Angeles Times story features some hair-raising quotes from the advocates of withdrawal about the consequences of their preferred strategy:

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s horrendous,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.), who has helped spearhead efforts against the war. “The only hope for the Iraqis is their own damned government, and there’s slim hope for that.”

“I believe, if we leave, the region will pull together,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma), a founding member of the influential House Out of Iraq caucus. “It’s important to them that Iraq stabilize.”

“The Out of Iraq caucus really has not looked beyond ending military involvement,” acknowledged Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a caucus leader and Pelosi ally. “Now that the environment is changing pretty significantly . . . everybody may be starting to look at what happens after the United States leaves.”

In their combination of naiveté, ignorance, and irresponsibility, our lawmakers almost make the Iraqis look good.

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