Commentary Magazine


Topic: Josh Marshall

Are Jews That Gullible?

Ben Smith says that he was dubious about the Obama team’s charm offensive with American Jews. After all, how could they be so foolish as to take puffery seriously and be wowed by a lunch with Elie Wiesel? Aren’t Jews, you know, supposed to be smarter than that? After all, the underlying policy hasn’t changed one iota. And in fact the administration is flaunting its anti-Israel connections.

Smith also picks up this tidbit:

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber drew the camera flashes at the White House Correspondents dinner, but foreign policy geeks took closer note of the TPM table, where National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — probably the most powerful foreign policy staffer in the administration — was seated with the two grand old men of “realist politics,” former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Also at the table, New America’s Steve Clemons, who qualified that he and the others are “progressive realists” and added that the table also included “Sex and the City” creator Darren Starr and TPM founder Josh Marshall, the host.

Scowcroft and Brzezinski have been vying for influence in the Obama White House since Obama introduced the latter in Iowa, then distanced himself from him over Israel. They’re currently central to the efforts to persuade Obama to advance his own Mideast peace plan.

McDonough, who came up on the process-oriented Hill, tends to keep his own broader views on foreign policy close to the vest.

To translate: one of the administration’s key foreign-policy hands goes to the most highly publicized event in town to hob-nob with the advisor who Obama had sworn during the campaign not to be an advisor, who has suggested that we shoot down Israeli planes if they cross Iraqi air space on the way to Iran, and who wants to impose a peace deal on Israel. And, for good measure, he sits with the purveyors of a website infamous for puff pieces on terrorists and committed to a hard-left anti-Israel line. It was an act of defiance — see who our friends are? Well, I guess we do.

So the question remains whether the Jewish community is as easily lulled into passivity as the Obama administration believes. Can a few carefully worded speeches get American Jews off their backs? After all, they’ve been so mute about the effort by Obama to undermine sanctions. And really, they were able to “condemn” Israel without being condemned in turn by the Jewish groups, which have clung so dearly to the Democratic Party. Smith shouldn’t be skeptical: American Jewish officialdom is falling over themselves to make up with the administration. Whether rank-and-file members and the larger Jewish community are as easily swayed, remains to be seen.

Ben Smith says that he was dubious about the Obama team’s charm offensive with American Jews. After all, how could they be so foolish as to take puffery seriously and be wowed by a lunch with Elie Wiesel? Aren’t Jews, you know, supposed to be smarter than that? After all, the underlying policy hasn’t changed one iota. And in fact the administration is flaunting its anti-Israel connections.

Smith also picks up this tidbit:

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber drew the camera flashes at the White House Correspondents dinner, but foreign policy geeks took closer note of the TPM table, where National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — probably the most powerful foreign policy staffer in the administration — was seated with the two grand old men of “realist politics,” former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Also at the table, New America’s Steve Clemons, who qualified that he and the others are “progressive realists” and added that the table also included “Sex and the City” creator Darren Starr and TPM founder Josh Marshall, the host.

Scowcroft and Brzezinski have been vying for influence in the Obama White House since Obama introduced the latter in Iowa, then distanced himself from him over Israel. They’re currently central to the efforts to persuade Obama to advance his own Mideast peace plan.

McDonough, who came up on the process-oriented Hill, tends to keep his own broader views on foreign policy close to the vest.

To translate: one of the administration’s key foreign-policy hands goes to the most highly publicized event in town to hob-nob with the advisor who Obama had sworn during the campaign not to be an advisor, who has suggested that we shoot down Israeli planes if they cross Iraqi air space on the way to Iran, and who wants to impose a peace deal on Israel. And, for good measure, he sits with the purveyors of a website infamous for puff pieces on terrorists and committed to a hard-left anti-Israel line. It was an act of defiance — see who our friends are? Well, I guess we do.

So the question remains whether the Jewish community is as easily lulled into passivity as the Obama administration believes. Can a few carefully worded speeches get American Jews off their backs? After all, they’ve been so mute about the effort by Obama to undermine sanctions. And really, they were able to “condemn” Israel without being condemned in turn by the Jewish groups, which have clung so dearly to the Democratic Party. Smith shouldn’t be skeptical: American Jewish officialdom is falling over themselves to make up with the administration. Whether rank-and-file members and the larger Jewish community are as easily swayed, remains to be seen.

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The Collapse

The headline reads: “Dem health care talks collapsing.” The Scott Brown epic upset has sent the Democrats scrambling:

Democrats struggled all year to maintain a coalition in support of health care reform without any GOP votes. Republican Scott Brown’s improbable win in Massachusetts on Tuesday now looks like it has the potential to end that almost-impossible balancing act. This post-Massachusetts confusion raises the stakes for President Barack Obama’s first official State of the Union address next week, which some now believe must be a last-ditch effort to get health care finished. On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a fierce proponent of health reform, said it wasn’t clear how the Senate should press ahead.

A scaled down bill? Nyet, say the liberals. Vote on the Senate bill? No votes, proclaims Nancy Pelosi. Maybe lots of mini-bills in itty-bitty pieces? Oh, puhleez. Do Democrats want to be at this until August? They’re looking for direction from the White House, we’re told. Well, they shouldn’t look too long. Obama says that Massachusetts had nothing to do with ObamaCare. But they’ve gotten one thing right: “Some Democrats also worried that voters would judge them out-of-touch for devoting so much energy to health care now.” It’s gotten so bad than even Olympia Snowe won’t play ball. (“To make matters worse, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, once a possible Republican vote, signaled Thursday that she was unlikely to rejoin negotiations with the White House and Democratic leaders unless they scaled back their ambitions.”) If it seems rather chaotic, it is. As Josh Marshall notes:

My strongest sense however is not so much that decisions have been made to drop reform as that it’s something like a matter of survivors walking around — half dazed — after some sort of natural disaster. There is no plan.

Conservatives are largely standing back, giddy with anticipation, wondering if this is actually transpiring before their eyes. They spent a year making cogent arguments, organizing town halls and tea parties, and making hay out of Democrats’ broken promises and corrupt backroom deals. But there was an underlying reality all along that nagged at them: the Democrats have the votes. Well, had the votes.

Democrats acted like the only majorities that mattered were in the House and the Senate and that they could act with impunity. Then Scott Brown deprived them of the 6oth vote and proved there was no free pass and the polls meant something. Almost instantly the ground beneath ObamaCare supporters began to crumble. The only thing ObamaCare had going for it was the illusion of inevitability and the willingness of members of Congress to avert their eyes from the popular rebellion mounting outside their offices. Once that was gone, what was left? There is no popular mandate to save it. There are no serious lawmakers who think this is a winning bill on which to run. It doesn’t even make sense on the merits (force people to buy plans they don’t want from Big Insurance?). And every Democrat on the ballot in 2010 (gubernatorial candidates included) wants this over.

The only question that remains is whether Obama can keep the dam from breaking before he gets to his State of the Union address.

The headline reads: “Dem health care talks collapsing.” The Scott Brown epic upset has sent the Democrats scrambling:

Democrats struggled all year to maintain a coalition in support of health care reform without any GOP votes. Republican Scott Brown’s improbable win in Massachusetts on Tuesday now looks like it has the potential to end that almost-impossible balancing act. This post-Massachusetts confusion raises the stakes for President Barack Obama’s first official State of the Union address next week, which some now believe must be a last-ditch effort to get health care finished. On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a fierce proponent of health reform, said it wasn’t clear how the Senate should press ahead.

A scaled down bill? Nyet, say the liberals. Vote on the Senate bill? No votes, proclaims Nancy Pelosi. Maybe lots of mini-bills in itty-bitty pieces? Oh, puhleez. Do Democrats want to be at this until August? They’re looking for direction from the White House, we’re told. Well, they shouldn’t look too long. Obama says that Massachusetts had nothing to do with ObamaCare. But they’ve gotten one thing right: “Some Democrats also worried that voters would judge them out-of-touch for devoting so much energy to health care now.” It’s gotten so bad than even Olympia Snowe won’t play ball. (“To make matters worse, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, once a possible Republican vote, signaled Thursday that she was unlikely to rejoin negotiations with the White House and Democratic leaders unless they scaled back their ambitions.”) If it seems rather chaotic, it is. As Josh Marshall notes:

My strongest sense however is not so much that decisions have been made to drop reform as that it’s something like a matter of survivors walking around — half dazed — after some sort of natural disaster. There is no plan.

Conservatives are largely standing back, giddy with anticipation, wondering if this is actually transpiring before their eyes. They spent a year making cogent arguments, organizing town halls and tea parties, and making hay out of Democrats’ broken promises and corrupt backroom deals. But there was an underlying reality all along that nagged at them: the Democrats have the votes. Well, had the votes.

Democrats acted like the only majorities that mattered were in the House and the Senate and that they could act with impunity. Then Scott Brown deprived them of the 6oth vote and proved there was no free pass and the polls meant something. Almost instantly the ground beneath ObamaCare supporters began to crumble. The only thing ObamaCare had going for it was the illusion of inevitability and the willingness of members of Congress to avert their eyes from the popular rebellion mounting outside their offices. Once that was gone, what was left? There is no popular mandate to save it. There are no serious lawmakers who think this is a winning bill on which to run. It doesn’t even make sense on the merits (force people to buy plans they don’t want from Big Insurance?). And every Democrat on the ballot in 2010 (gubernatorial candidates included) wants this over.

The only question that remains is whether Obama can keep the dam from breaking before he gets to his State of the Union address.

Read Less