Commentary Magazine


Topic: Pat Toomey

Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s about loyalty and persistence: “Fifty-seven years ago, an armistice ended the fighting in Korea — another unpopular conflict, far bloodier than the Iraq war, although shorter. … Yet when the war was over, the United States did not abandon South Korea. We had done so in 1949, when our post-World War II occupation of Korea ended, opening the door to North Korea’s invasion the following year. This time, instead, we kept a substantial military force in South Korea. The United States stuck with South Korea even though the country was then ruled by a dictator and the prospects for its war-devastated economy looked dim.”

It’s about the worst-run and worst-prepared campaign this season. The latest on the hapless Pennsylvania Democrat: “Republicans criticized U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday for requesting an earmark they say would have sent $350,000 to a company, in violation of House rules.”

It’s about the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee throwing millions down a rat hole in a fruitless attempt to save a weak candidate: “Republican candidate Pat Toomey has a 10-point lead over his Democratic rival in the race for a Senate seat in the key swing state of Pennsylvania where worries about the economy dominate, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. In the latest sign that President Barack Obama’s Democrats could struggle at the November 2 midterm vote, 47 percent of likely voters said they would back Toomey and 37 percent said they favored Democrat Joe Sestak.”

It’s about the enthusiasm: “Americans with the strongest opinions about the country’s most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections. In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama’s work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism.”

It’s about time: “As Obama Struggles, Bush’s Legacy Recovers.”

It’s about the lunacy of Iranian engagement: “An Iranian newspaper with close ties to the country’s supreme leader has responded to a campaign by French celebrities to save the life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning by calling its most prominent member, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a ‘prostitute’ who ‘deserves to die.'” By the way, where are American celebrities?

It’s about as far from the “summer of recovery” as you can get: “U.S. auto sales in August probably were the slowest for the month in 28 years as model-year closeout deals failed to entice consumers concerned the economy is worsening and they may lose their jobs.”

It’s about loyalty and persistence: “Fifty-seven years ago, an armistice ended the fighting in Korea — another unpopular conflict, far bloodier than the Iraq war, although shorter. … Yet when the war was over, the United States did not abandon South Korea. We had done so in 1949, when our post-World War II occupation of Korea ended, opening the door to North Korea’s invasion the following year. This time, instead, we kept a substantial military force in South Korea. The United States stuck with South Korea even though the country was then ruled by a dictator and the prospects for its war-devastated economy looked dim.”

It’s about the worst-run and worst-prepared campaign this season. The latest on the hapless Pennsylvania Democrat: “Republicans criticized U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday for requesting an earmark they say would have sent $350,000 to a company, in violation of House rules.”

It’s about the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee throwing millions down a rat hole in a fruitless attempt to save a weak candidate: “Republican candidate Pat Toomey has a 10-point lead over his Democratic rival in the race for a Senate seat in the key swing state of Pennsylvania where worries about the economy dominate, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. In the latest sign that President Barack Obama’s Democrats could struggle at the November 2 midterm vote, 47 percent of likely voters said they would back Toomey and 37 percent said they favored Democrat Joe Sestak.”

It’s about the enthusiasm: “Americans with the strongest opinions about the country’s most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections. In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama’s work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism.”

It’s about time: “As Obama Struggles, Bush’s Legacy Recovers.”

It’s about the lunacy of Iranian engagement: “An Iranian newspaper with close ties to the country’s supreme leader has responded to a campaign by French celebrities to save the life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning by calling its most prominent member, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a ‘prostitute’ who ‘deserves to die.'” By the way, where are American celebrities?

It’s about as far from the “summer of recovery” as you can get: “U.S. auto sales in August probably were the slowest for the month in 28 years as model-year closeout deals failed to entice consumers concerned the economy is worsening and they may lose their jobs.”

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Taking a Beating

Less than 70 days before the election, Pennsylvania voters are not impressed with a candidate who rubber-stamped 97.8 percent of the Obama-Pelosi agenda.(I guess the president and speaker were insufficiently radical 2.2 percent of the time). They have not warmed to a pol who promised on his website that he wouldn’t take money from earmark recipients but who discounts such pledges as “personal.” That might be true of his affirmations of affection for Israel — a matter of convenience, non-binding and inconsistent with his actions. And there too, Pennsylvania voters lack a soft spot for CAIR’s keynoter, a Gaza-54-letter signatory, defender of the Ground Zero mosque, and fan of the UN and the UN Human Rights Council. So, Rep. Joe Sestak is in deep trouble.

In fact, Pennsylvania’s voters are running from him in droves; in the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by 9 points. His support is down to a meager 31 percent.  Not all of this is Sestak’s doing; Obama is a millstone around Sestak’s neck. But it’s hard to imagine how Sestak could have run a worse race — or how, in its highest-profile endorsement, J street could have picked a worse surrogate for its Israel-bashing platform. Unless something radically shakes up the race, both Sestak and his J Street patrons are likely to be not only beaten but also embarrassed on election day.

Less than 70 days before the election, Pennsylvania voters are not impressed with a candidate who rubber-stamped 97.8 percent of the Obama-Pelosi agenda.(I guess the president and speaker were insufficiently radical 2.2 percent of the time). They have not warmed to a pol who promised on his website that he wouldn’t take money from earmark recipients but who discounts such pledges as “personal.” That might be true of his affirmations of affection for Israel — a matter of convenience, non-binding and inconsistent with his actions. And there too, Pennsylvania voters lack a soft spot for CAIR’s keynoter, a Gaza-54-letter signatory, defender of the Ground Zero mosque, and fan of the UN and the UN Human Rights Council. So, Rep. Joe Sestak is in deep trouble.

In fact, Pennsylvania’s voters are running from him in droves; in the latest poll, he trails Pat Toomey by 9 points. His support is down to a meager 31 percent.  Not all of this is Sestak’s doing; Obama is a millstone around Sestak’s neck. But it’s hard to imagine how Sestak could have run a worse race — or how, in its highest-profile endorsement, J street could have picked a worse surrogate for its Israel-bashing platform. Unless something radically shakes up the race, both Sestak and his J Street patrons are likely to be not only beaten but also embarrassed on election day.

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Like Deja Vu All Over Again

Today the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was announced. After 18 months of bullying Israel, the Obami’s tone was markedly different. As this report explained:

But Mrs. Clinton pointedly did not mention using Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the basis for territorial negotiations — a basic plank of previous talks — or set any other basic terms for the negotiations. Nor did she press the Israeli government to extend a moratorium on the construction of Jewish settlements, which would remove a potential hurdle to a deal.

In 18 months, the Obami managed to climb back to where the Bush administration had been — direct talks with no preconditions. An experienced Israel hand notes that there had been four years of direct talks until George Mitchell “destroyed them with his demands about settlements.” He continues: “The one-year timetable is the — who knows — fifth or tenth or twentieth deadline, and will have no different fate. The Roadmap gave it three years — and that was not enough. So that is plain silly. But above all, they begin with NO common understanding.”

This was made clear by the administration’s readout of a briefing given to American Jewish leaders:

U.S. officials told Jewish community leaders on a private conference call this afternoon that they believe Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is on the verge of joining Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in accepting an invitation to resume peace talks.But he acknowledged that details of the talks have yet to be finalized, plans for a presidential visit to the region remain unclear, and hopes of drawing other Arab leaders and Hamas into the process ride on the momentum of the talks themselves.

Well there is certainly less here than even the initial Obama spin would have had us believe. It seems to be that only an initial dinner is set. (“The United States will put its imprimatur on the talks in an orchestrated series of meetings that begin with a White House dinner Sept. 1 hosted by Mr. Obama.”) Beyond that? “Within the negotiations we’ve obviously had a lot of preparatory discussions with the parties on how to structure them,and we’ll need to finalize those, so we’re not in a position now to really talk about that.” Good grief. This has all the makings of a rushed announcement to try to put a horrid week for the White House behind them.”

It is interesting that Obama’s role is not yet finalized either. In fact, as my Israel expert points out, the death knell of the talks may be Obama’s own presence. After all, the Israelis have learned the hard way not to trust him, so it’s difficult to see how his presence could be a help. The telltale sign of the level of animosity between Obama and the Jewish state — he doesn’t yet have the nerve to visit Israel, where he could very likely face angry crowds. (“‘He looks forward to an opportunity to visit Israel,’ [Dan Shapiro] said of Obama, adding that such a visit would likely include a stop in the Palestinian Territories. The visit ‘could be very valuable and very meaningful at the right time.'”) Translation: he’s not going anytime soon.

The statements by others released on Friday were indicative of the low expectations that these talks engender among knowledgeable observers. AIPAC, which is obliged to cheer each step in the fruitless “peace process,” declares that it  “welcomes the renewal of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), as announced Friday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and expresses its appreciation to the Obama administration for its efforts in making this goal a reality.” But even its usually bubbly tone was replaced by sober and somewhat skeptical caveats:

For talks to succeed the PA must match Israel’s commitment to conducting peace talks without preconditions or excuses, abandon its longstanding attempts to avoid making difficult choices at the negotiating table and cease incitement against Israel at home and abroad.  Likewise, Arab states must heed the calls by the Obama Administration and Congress to take immediate and meaningful steps toward normalization with Israel, and they must provide the political support for the Palestinians to make the kind of significant and difficult choices that will be required.

An even more candid statement came from Senate candidate Pat Toomey, who said he was hopeful but also “wary”:

Too often such talks produce little substance, and devolve into casting unfair blame at Israel for its legitimate efforts to guard its own security, while ignoring the unending violence that is openly encouraged by Palestinian leaders. That is especially the case with negotiations that involve the United Nations, the Russians, and the Europeans. I encourage President Obama to work against that tendency, and to set the tone in these talks by stressing the very real national security concerns Israel is dealing with.

And what happens when the talks go nowhere? Will we face yet another intifada? Will the bridging proposals morph into a imposed peace plan? Who knows — not even Day 2 is set yet.  The administration has imbibed the peace process Kool-Aid, but there is little evidence that it promotes peace or that the Obami are competent to oversee negotiations. And meanwhile the real Middle East crisis — the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon looms on the horizon. In a real sense, the “peace process” is nothing more than a dangerous distraction.

Today the resumption of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was announced. After 18 months of bullying Israel, the Obami’s tone was markedly different. As this report explained:

But Mrs. Clinton pointedly did not mention using Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the basis for territorial negotiations — a basic plank of previous talks — or set any other basic terms for the negotiations. Nor did she press the Israeli government to extend a moratorium on the construction of Jewish settlements, which would remove a potential hurdle to a deal.

In 18 months, the Obami managed to climb back to where the Bush administration had been — direct talks with no preconditions. An experienced Israel hand notes that there had been four years of direct talks until George Mitchell “destroyed them with his demands about settlements.” He continues: “The one-year timetable is the — who knows — fifth or tenth or twentieth deadline, and will have no different fate. The Roadmap gave it three years — and that was not enough. So that is plain silly. But above all, they begin with NO common understanding.”

This was made clear by the administration’s readout of a briefing given to American Jewish leaders:

U.S. officials told Jewish community leaders on a private conference call this afternoon that they believe Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is on the verge of joining Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in accepting an invitation to resume peace talks.But he acknowledged that details of the talks have yet to be finalized, plans for a presidential visit to the region remain unclear, and hopes of drawing other Arab leaders and Hamas into the process ride on the momentum of the talks themselves.

Well there is certainly less here than even the initial Obama spin would have had us believe. It seems to be that only an initial dinner is set. (“The United States will put its imprimatur on the talks in an orchestrated series of meetings that begin with a White House dinner Sept. 1 hosted by Mr. Obama.”) Beyond that? “Within the negotiations we’ve obviously had a lot of preparatory discussions with the parties on how to structure them,and we’ll need to finalize those, so we’re not in a position now to really talk about that.” Good grief. This has all the makings of a rushed announcement to try to put a horrid week for the White House behind them.”

It is interesting that Obama’s role is not yet finalized either. In fact, as my Israel expert points out, the death knell of the talks may be Obama’s own presence. After all, the Israelis have learned the hard way not to trust him, so it’s difficult to see how his presence could be a help. The telltale sign of the level of animosity between Obama and the Jewish state — he doesn’t yet have the nerve to visit Israel, where he could very likely face angry crowds. (“‘He looks forward to an opportunity to visit Israel,’ [Dan Shapiro] said of Obama, adding that such a visit would likely include a stop in the Palestinian Territories. The visit ‘could be very valuable and very meaningful at the right time.'”) Translation: he’s not going anytime soon.

The statements by others released on Friday were indicative of the low expectations that these talks engender among knowledgeable observers. AIPAC, which is obliged to cheer each step in the fruitless “peace process,” declares that it  “welcomes the renewal of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), as announced Friday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and expresses its appreciation to the Obama administration for its efforts in making this goal a reality.” But even its usually bubbly tone was replaced by sober and somewhat skeptical caveats:

For talks to succeed the PA must match Israel’s commitment to conducting peace talks without preconditions or excuses, abandon its longstanding attempts to avoid making difficult choices at the negotiating table and cease incitement against Israel at home and abroad.  Likewise, Arab states must heed the calls by the Obama Administration and Congress to take immediate and meaningful steps toward normalization with Israel, and they must provide the political support for the Palestinians to make the kind of significant and difficult choices that will be required.

An even more candid statement came from Senate candidate Pat Toomey, who said he was hopeful but also “wary”:

Too often such talks produce little substance, and devolve into casting unfair blame at Israel for its legitimate efforts to guard its own security, while ignoring the unending violence that is openly encouraged by Palestinian leaders. That is especially the case with negotiations that involve the United Nations, the Russians, and the Europeans. I encourage President Obama to work against that tendency, and to set the tone in these talks by stressing the very real national security concerns Israel is dealing with.

And what happens when the talks go nowhere? Will we face yet another intifada? Will the bridging proposals morph into a imposed peace plan? Who knows — not even Day 2 is set yet.  The administration has imbibed the peace process Kool-Aid, but there is little evidence that it promotes peace or that the Obami are competent to oversee negotiations. And meanwhile the real Middle East crisis — the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon looms on the horizon. In a real sense, the “peace process” is nothing more than a dangerous distraction.

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Another Liberal with Radical Ties (Part Two)

Joe Sestak’s answers on the questionnaire from the extremist group Citizens for Global Solutions on a range of foreign-policy issues reveal him to be to the left of the vast majority of Americans, even the president. The entire questionnaire should be read in full, but some items are particularly noteworthy. It starts out this way:

Within the last decade, the U.S. role in the geopolitical landscape has shifted away from being seen as a constructive leader. What role do you believe the U.S. should play in the world today?

After eight years of counterproductive, unilateral policies under President Bush, I believe it is time once again for the United States to be a true leader on the world stage and to engage with other states, including those with interests which may be adverse to our own. I have supported President Obama’s efforts to engage with rogue states such as Iran and his efforts to reassert our role as a leader in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations. I strongly support the Administration’s demonstrated commitment to global nuclear non-proliferation, and believe that the successful negotiation of the START follow-on treaty and convening of a nuclear security summit in Washington are constructive steps.

Plainly, this is precisely what the militantly pro-UN group wants to hear.

What about America’s war on Islamic terror?

I support President Obama’s stated withdrawal time lines from Iraq. I believe the President should establish benchmarks for success or failure in Afghanistan which, upon the meeting of certain conditions, would trigger an alternative or exit strategy. I have also voted for legislation requiring the Secretary of Defense to promulgate an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Not even the Obami talk this way anymore.

Sestak’s apparent infatuation with international organizations and, specifically, the International Criminal Court matches up nicely with CGS’s agenda as well:

5. Will you support greater U.S. cooperation with the ICC in situations where it is in the United States’ interest to bring to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity?
Yes
6. Will you support the continued U.S. participation as an observer in the Court’s governing body (also known as the Assembly of States Parties)?
Yes
7. Do you support the reinstatement of the U.S. signature to the Rome Statute [that would submit the U.S. to the ICC’s jurisdiction] and its eventual approval by the Senate for U.S. ratification?
Yes
I agree with President Clinton that eventual ratification should remain our goal, but that the United States should have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the court before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction.

He also says he wants to double foreign aid (presumably including aid to those countries that routinely vote against the U.S. and Israel in international bodies).

But of all his answers, the most troubling may be his unqualified yes to this one: “Will you support the call for the U.S. to refrain from the use or threat of a veto in the UN Security Council regarding situations involving ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes?” So, without knowing the context and without regard to the UN’s perpetual efforts to cast Israel as a criminal state, Sestak would call for the U.S. to tie its own hands. He’s ready — in advance — to throw away the one effective tool in its arsenal that allows it to defeat noxious UN Security Council actions. Good to know.

Sestak, then, is no garden-variety liberal on foreign policy. His association with CGS and his answers to its queries raise a number of questions. Recall Sestak’s odd letter calling not for the UN Human Rights Council to stay out of the flotilla incident but for it to conduct a “fair” investigation of Israel. It was ludicrous on its face. Now we wonder whether it was an effort to thread the needle between irate pro-Israel voters and his CGS backers (who fawn over the UNHRC). So don’t expect Sestak to support the U.S. withdrawal from that bile-gushing entity that his backers say “is direct, resultant, and demands accountability” and that vilifies Israel. Meanwhile, CGS declares that the U.S. is deriving such “goodwill” from sitting mutely on the council.

Does Sestak agree with CGS’s agenda? (In his answers No. 17 and No. 18, Sestak declares that he’d accept the group’s endorsement and its money.) If not, will he return the money, as Bob Casey did in 2006? And why, considering the group’s track record on Israel and its stance toward international bodies that routinely challenge Israel’s legitimacy, would he seek the group’s endorsement? I mean, if he really does “stand with Israel,” wouldn’t he recognize the danger to the Jewish state posed by such an extreme internationalist agenda? The Sestak campaign has not yet responded to these questions, but I’ll pass on any answers I receive.

In sum, Sestak is in a bind on foreign policy and a raft of other issues. The latest Democratic poll shows him nine points behind Pat Toomey. He’s getting hammered among independents (trailing by 50 to 23 percent). He’s had his hands full with the Emergency Committee for Israel ad attack, and now he faces a new ad assault by the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Sources tell me it will be one of the largest investments ever made in an ad campaign targeting the Jewish community, with an initial buy of two weeks with heavy cable in Philadelphia.) In other words, Sestak’s association with leftist groups may be far more damaging than helpful. To regain ground with Jewish voters and independents, will he shed some of his associations, perhaps give back money from the most objectionable of his donors? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Rasmussen also has the margin in the race at 9 points.

Joe Sestak’s answers on the questionnaire from the extremist group Citizens for Global Solutions on a range of foreign-policy issues reveal him to be to the left of the vast majority of Americans, even the president. The entire questionnaire should be read in full, but some items are particularly noteworthy. It starts out this way:

Within the last decade, the U.S. role in the geopolitical landscape has shifted away from being seen as a constructive leader. What role do you believe the U.S. should play in the world today?

After eight years of counterproductive, unilateral policies under President Bush, I believe it is time once again for the United States to be a true leader on the world stage and to engage with other states, including those with interests which may be adverse to our own. I have supported President Obama’s efforts to engage with rogue states such as Iran and his efforts to reassert our role as a leader in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations. I strongly support the Administration’s demonstrated commitment to global nuclear non-proliferation, and believe that the successful negotiation of the START follow-on treaty and convening of a nuclear security summit in Washington are constructive steps.

Plainly, this is precisely what the militantly pro-UN group wants to hear.

What about America’s war on Islamic terror?

I support President Obama’s stated withdrawal time lines from Iraq. I believe the President should establish benchmarks for success or failure in Afghanistan which, upon the meeting of certain conditions, would trigger an alternative or exit strategy. I have also voted for legislation requiring the Secretary of Defense to promulgate an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Not even the Obami talk this way anymore.

Sestak’s apparent infatuation with international organizations and, specifically, the International Criminal Court matches up nicely with CGS’s agenda as well:

5. Will you support greater U.S. cooperation with the ICC in situations where it is in the United States’ interest to bring to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity?
Yes
6. Will you support the continued U.S. participation as an observer in the Court’s governing body (also known as the Assembly of States Parties)?
Yes
7. Do you support the reinstatement of the U.S. signature to the Rome Statute [that would submit the U.S. to the ICC’s jurisdiction] and its eventual approval by the Senate for U.S. ratification?
Yes
I agree with President Clinton that eventual ratification should remain our goal, but that the United States should have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the court before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction.

He also says he wants to double foreign aid (presumably including aid to those countries that routinely vote against the U.S. and Israel in international bodies).

But of all his answers, the most troubling may be his unqualified yes to this one: “Will you support the call for the U.S. to refrain from the use or threat of a veto in the UN Security Council regarding situations involving ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes?” So, without knowing the context and without regard to the UN’s perpetual efforts to cast Israel as a criminal state, Sestak would call for the U.S. to tie its own hands. He’s ready — in advance — to throw away the one effective tool in its arsenal that allows it to defeat noxious UN Security Council actions. Good to know.

Sestak, then, is no garden-variety liberal on foreign policy. His association with CGS and his answers to its queries raise a number of questions. Recall Sestak’s odd letter calling not for the UN Human Rights Council to stay out of the flotilla incident but for it to conduct a “fair” investigation of Israel. It was ludicrous on its face. Now we wonder whether it was an effort to thread the needle between irate pro-Israel voters and his CGS backers (who fawn over the UNHRC). So don’t expect Sestak to support the U.S. withdrawal from that bile-gushing entity that his backers say “is direct, resultant, and demands accountability” and that vilifies Israel. Meanwhile, CGS declares that the U.S. is deriving such “goodwill” from sitting mutely on the council.

Does Sestak agree with CGS’s agenda? (In his answers No. 17 and No. 18, Sestak declares that he’d accept the group’s endorsement and its money.) If not, will he return the money, as Bob Casey did in 2006? And why, considering the group’s track record on Israel and its stance toward international bodies that routinely challenge Israel’s legitimacy, would he seek the group’s endorsement? I mean, if he really does “stand with Israel,” wouldn’t he recognize the danger to the Jewish state posed by such an extreme internationalist agenda? The Sestak campaign has not yet responded to these questions, but I’ll pass on any answers I receive.

In sum, Sestak is in a bind on foreign policy and a raft of other issues. The latest Democratic poll shows him nine points behind Pat Toomey. He’s getting hammered among independents (trailing by 50 to 23 percent). He’s had his hands full with the Emergency Committee for Israel ad attack, and now he faces a new ad assault by the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Sources tell me it will be one of the largest investments ever made in an ad campaign targeting the Jewish community, with an initial buy of two weeks with heavy cable in Philadelphia.) In other words, Sestak’s association with leftist groups may be far more damaging than helpful. To regain ground with Jewish voters and independents, will he shed some of his associations, perhaps give back money from the most objectionable of his donors? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Rasmussen also has the margin in the race at 9 points.

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Endorsed by the Mosque Builders’ Cheerleader

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who not only defended the Ground Zero mosque but also told its critics to shut up, is going to Pennsylvania today to endorse Rep. Joe Sestak. Honest. Sestak, who is fending off attacks that he is too liberal on a range of issues, is anti-Israel in his voting record, and who keynoted for CAIR, is now, in the midst of a fever-pitch debate about Cordoba House, going to get the blessing of the mayor who managed to infuriate even liberal New Yorkers.

I suppose Sestak could criticize Bloomberg, J Street, Obama, and CAIR — all of whom support both his candidacy and the mosque — but that would certainly come as a shock to those who’ve been supporting him and raising money for campaign. Meanwhile, Pat Toomey’s director of communications, Nachama Soloveichik, had this statement when I asked about his views: “It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere.” A fine suggestion — Rep. Sestak, what say you? So far, he’s waffling:

A spokesman for Sestak said the congressman “believes there is a Constitutional right to religious freedom and separation of church and state that applies equally to all Americans,” but he declined to clearly back the plan.

Sooner or later, he and other Democrats will be forced to answer — for or against the mosque? It’s not like it’s a hard question or one that lacks national significance. After all, Gov. Bob McDonnell had no problem stating his views: “If it were my decision, I would not put that center there. It is a site where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives and I certainly would not locate that center there if I had a voice.” Eventually Sestak will have to either alienate his lefty, pro-mosque supporters or the people of Pennsylvania. Not sure which he’ll choose.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who not only defended the Ground Zero mosque but also told its critics to shut up, is going to Pennsylvania today to endorse Rep. Joe Sestak. Honest. Sestak, who is fending off attacks that he is too liberal on a range of issues, is anti-Israel in his voting record, and who keynoted for CAIR, is now, in the midst of a fever-pitch debate about Cordoba House, going to get the blessing of the mayor who managed to infuriate even liberal New Yorkers.

I suppose Sestak could criticize Bloomberg, J Street, Obama, and CAIR — all of whom support both his candidacy and the mosque — but that would certainly come as a shock to those who’ve been supporting him and raising money for campaign. Meanwhile, Pat Toomey’s director of communications, Nachama Soloveichik, had this statement when I asked about his views: “It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero. Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere.” A fine suggestion — Rep. Sestak, what say you? So far, he’s waffling:

A spokesman for Sestak said the congressman “believes there is a Constitutional right to religious freedom and separation of church and state that applies equally to all Americans,” but he declined to clearly back the plan.

Sooner or later, he and other Democrats will be forced to answer — for or against the mosque? It’s not like it’s a hard question or one that lacks national significance. After all, Gov. Bob McDonnell had no problem stating his views: “If it were my decision, I would not put that center there. It is a site where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives and I certainly would not locate that center there if I had a voice.” Eventually Sestak will have to either alienate his lefty, pro-mosque supporters or the people of Pennsylvania. Not sure which he’ll choose.

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National Jewish Democratic Council Meltdown

It’s Sunday, so by now David Harris, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, has stopped digging the hole he excavated for himself on Friday. He finally may have run out of retractions and completed his initial damage control. It’s not clear, however, whether the NJDC will keep him around after his performance on Friday.

Harris showed that there is far more “D” than “J” in his organization when he rushed forth with a partisan swipe at the Emergency Committee for Israel:

The controversial new pro-Israel outfit, Emergency Committee for Israel “is playing with fire,” says David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which recently released a “fact sheet” aimed at exposing what it says are ECI’s “dangerous” smear tactics. …

“They’re using Israel solely as a partisan wedge issue and they’re employing tactics that have been decried by the organized Jewish community and the government of Israel — and those are the facts.”

But when asked whether J Street didn’t fit that description, he rushed to the Israel-bashers’ defense:

“J Street and other groups are bi-partisan in their approach, first of all,” he explained. “This range of Jewish community organizations traffics in facts, and they represent the mainstream of views within the American Jewish community, although individual Jew are free to disagree with them.”

Oops. That’s just hooey, and his members know it. And to make matters worse, Jeremy Ben-Ami proved Harris’s statement to be foolish:

“J Street’s purpose is clear and non-partisan: to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that brings peace and security to Israel and its neighbors,” he said in a statement to me. “Attempts by Republican political operatives to shift elections toward candidates they support but who have poor records on Israel like Pat Toomey are transparent and bound to backfire.”

By this time, the phones must have been ringing off the hook. So Harris rushed forth with a retraction:

Upon Learning of Ben-Ami’s partisan pot shot, Harris immediately responded: “NJDC would not label a candidate like Pat Toomey as having ‘a poor record on Israel.’ We think it is destructive to the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship to tear down those who are Israel supporters, whether from the left or from the right.”

So Harris managed to offend both mainstream and lefty Democrats.

But his no-good, horrible, cringe-inducing day was not yet done. There was also the “Jewish money” story. Harris issued a statement that promptly disappeared and was replaced by a retraction (what he was retracting wasn’t precisely clear):

At the time of this morning’s statement, we had initial press reports in hand but not all the facts. Now that we have the facts, including Congressman McMahon’s comprehensive apology, we must retract our previous statement and thank Congressman McMahon not just for his quick actions but his clear sentiments. His reassurance that what took place is ‘in no way indicative of my beliefs or of my campaign’ is deeply appreciated, as is his assertion that ‘any comments that could serve to divide our community along religious or ethnic lines have no place in our community or my campaign.’ These statements and his comprehensive apology, combined with his swift action, put this issue to rest as far as we are concerned.

It remains wrong to ‘count Jews’ or to perpetuate stereotypes about the Jewish community, but it is now clear that any such behavior here was that of an individual, and that the candidate had no knowledge of it. Mike McMahon’s swift actions in this matter should be commended, not condemned.

Nothing like firing off statements without the facts.

To sum it up, Harris spent most of Friday in retraction mode, exposing himself as the partisan wedge-maker he routinely rails against. Is a retraction of his ECI jabs next? Well, that would make it a trifecta in the apology derby. It’s hard to believe this is the best the NJDC can do. Granted, it’s not easy flacking for the most anti-Israel president ever, but, surely, they could find someone who doesn’t compound their problems.

It’s Sunday, so by now David Harris, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, has stopped digging the hole he excavated for himself on Friday. He finally may have run out of retractions and completed his initial damage control. It’s not clear, however, whether the NJDC will keep him around after his performance on Friday.

Harris showed that there is far more “D” than “J” in his organization when he rushed forth with a partisan swipe at the Emergency Committee for Israel:

The controversial new pro-Israel outfit, Emergency Committee for Israel “is playing with fire,” says David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which recently released a “fact sheet” aimed at exposing what it says are ECI’s “dangerous” smear tactics. …

“They’re using Israel solely as a partisan wedge issue and they’re employing tactics that have been decried by the organized Jewish community and the government of Israel — and those are the facts.”

But when asked whether J Street didn’t fit that description, he rushed to the Israel-bashers’ defense:

“J Street and other groups are bi-partisan in their approach, first of all,” he explained. “This range of Jewish community organizations traffics in facts, and they represent the mainstream of views within the American Jewish community, although individual Jew are free to disagree with them.”

Oops. That’s just hooey, and his members know it. And to make matters worse, Jeremy Ben-Ami proved Harris’s statement to be foolish:

“J Street’s purpose is clear and non-partisan: to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that brings peace and security to Israel and its neighbors,” he said in a statement to me. “Attempts by Republican political operatives to shift elections toward candidates they support but who have poor records on Israel like Pat Toomey are transparent and bound to backfire.”

By this time, the phones must have been ringing off the hook. So Harris rushed forth with a retraction:

Upon Learning of Ben-Ami’s partisan pot shot, Harris immediately responded: “NJDC would not label a candidate like Pat Toomey as having ‘a poor record on Israel.’ We think it is destructive to the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship to tear down those who are Israel supporters, whether from the left or from the right.”

So Harris managed to offend both mainstream and lefty Democrats.

But his no-good, horrible, cringe-inducing day was not yet done. There was also the “Jewish money” story. Harris issued a statement that promptly disappeared and was replaced by a retraction (what he was retracting wasn’t precisely clear):

At the time of this morning’s statement, we had initial press reports in hand but not all the facts. Now that we have the facts, including Congressman McMahon’s comprehensive apology, we must retract our previous statement and thank Congressman McMahon not just for his quick actions but his clear sentiments. His reassurance that what took place is ‘in no way indicative of my beliefs or of my campaign’ is deeply appreciated, as is his assertion that ‘any comments that could serve to divide our community along religious or ethnic lines have no place in our community or my campaign.’ These statements and his comprehensive apology, combined with his swift action, put this issue to rest as far as we are concerned.

It remains wrong to ‘count Jews’ or to perpetuate stereotypes about the Jewish community, but it is now clear that any such behavior here was that of an individual, and that the candidate had no knowledge of it. Mike McMahon’s swift actions in this matter should be commended, not condemned.

Nothing like firing off statements without the facts.

To sum it up, Harris spent most of Friday in retraction mode, exposing himself as the partisan wedge-maker he routinely rails against. Is a retraction of his ECI jabs next? Well, that would make it a trifecta in the apology derby. It’s hard to believe this is the best the NJDC can do. Granted, it’s not easy flacking for the most anti-Israel president ever, but, surely, they could find someone who doesn’t compound their problems.

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Give Back the Money, Joe

That’s what Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s spent nearly all his time since the primary on the defensive, is hearing. It seems that many Democrats have given back money generated by the very ethically challenged Charlie Rangel, but not Sestak:

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey and at least two House challengers have made Rangel contributions an issue, calling on Democrats to return the money.

“Throughout the campaign, Congressman [Joe] Sestak has spoken about accountability and putting principle over politics, but it is now becoming clear that his pledges and lofty promises are just hollow words from another Washington insider,” Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said about contributions Sestak has received from Rangel’s political action committees.

Even Sestak’s most extreme left-wing colleagues are dumping the Rangel cash. But not Sestak — maybe his idea is to let the issue build and build, let free media help his opponent, and then cave. That seems to be pretty much his campaign strategy so far.

And if that were not enough, he’s now fending off attacks about his earmarks:

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate, has reaped at least $119,650 in campaign contributions from employees of companies to which he has steered federal earmarks since 2008, according to public records. There’s nothing illegal — or unusual — on Capitol Hill about the practice of fund-raising from recipients of federal appropriations, but Sestak, a former three-star Navy admiral, has held himself to a higher standard.

The Toomey campaign is mocking Sestak for denying the pledge on his own website that vowed to give back contributions from “an individual or organization [that] has made a request for an appropriations project.” It seems — wow, just like when he denied the language about Israel’s imposing “collective punishment” on Gazans in his own Gaza letter — that Sestak didn’t mean what he said:

Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets, which track earmarks and donations, respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Sestak said he has returned thousands of dollars in similar contributions, but some slipped past. He noted that no rules prevent him from keeping contributions from people who receive federal money. “I guess the lesson is it’s hard to take that extra step,” he said. Sestak said he never intended to publicize his donation-return policy, which appears in his campaign website’s Ethics section. “I just wanted a quiet sense of accountability.”

I imagine Democrats are experiencing a “quiet sense” of panic as they realize they’ve nominated someone who not only has an Israel problem and a Pelosi problem (97.8 percent support, but not “all the time,” mind you) but also an honesty problem. In a year when voters are sick of politicians shirking responsibility and coming up with ludicrous spin, this is potentially a very big problem.

That’s what Rep. Joe Sestak, who’s spent nearly all his time since the primary on the defensive, is hearing. It seems that many Democrats have given back money generated by the very ethically challenged Charlie Rangel, but not Sestak:

Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey and at least two House challengers have made Rangel contributions an issue, calling on Democrats to return the money.

“Throughout the campaign, Congressman [Joe] Sestak has spoken about accountability and putting principle over politics, but it is now becoming clear that his pledges and lofty promises are just hollow words from another Washington insider,” Toomey campaign spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said about contributions Sestak has received from Rangel’s political action committees.

Even Sestak’s most extreme left-wing colleagues are dumping the Rangel cash. But not Sestak — maybe his idea is to let the issue build and build, let free media help his opponent, and then cave. That seems to be pretty much his campaign strategy so far.

And if that were not enough, he’s now fending off attacks about his earmarks:

Rep. Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for Senate, has reaped at least $119,650 in campaign contributions from employees of companies to which he has steered federal earmarks since 2008, according to public records. There’s nothing illegal — or unusual — on Capitol Hill about the practice of fund-raising from recipients of federal appropriations, but Sestak, a former three-star Navy admiral, has held himself to a higher standard.

The Toomey campaign is mocking Sestak for denying the pledge on his own website that vowed to give back contributions from “an individual or organization [that] has made a request for an appropriations project.” It seems — wow, just like when he denied the language about Israel’s imposing “collective punishment” on Gazans in his own Gaza letter — that Sestak didn’t mean what he said:

Data from the websites Legistorm and Opensecrets, which track earmarks and donations, respectively, shows Sestak kept about $62,000 in donations from senior officials at companies receiving his earmarks. Sestak said he has returned thousands of dollars in similar contributions, but some slipped past. He noted that no rules prevent him from keeping contributions from people who receive federal money. “I guess the lesson is it’s hard to take that extra step,” he said. Sestak said he never intended to publicize his donation-return policy, which appears in his campaign website’s Ethics section. “I just wanted a quiet sense of accountability.”

I imagine Democrats are experiencing a “quiet sense” of panic as they realize they’ve nominated someone who not only has an Israel problem and a Pelosi problem (97.8 percent support, but not “all the time,” mind you) but also an honesty problem. In a year when voters are sick of politicians shirking responsibility and coming up with ludicrous spin, this is potentially a very big problem.

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The Dumbest Campaign Strategy Ever?

Last week, we witnessed Joe Sestak’s lawyer fail to get Comcast to pull ECI’s ad. In doing so, Sestak only succeeded in calling attention to the problematic aspects of his stance toward Israel, most particularly his CAIR speech in 2007. (J Street has not replied to my queries as to whether the group had read the speech before endorsing Sestak, whether it agreed with Sestak’s praise of CAIR, and whether J Street believes CAIR has ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.) But this is not an isolated gambit. Trying to shut up his critics appears to be his entire media strategy so far. The local Pennsylvania press reports:

Two Pittsburgh-area television stations have put ads attacking Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak back on the air after yanking them earlier this week.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had bought the ad time on 21 stations across Pennsylvania, but the Sestak campaign protested as inaccurate the portions of the spot in which the organization accuses Mr. Sestak of voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100 percent of the time.

WPGH and WPMY, sister stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled the ads from the air for a day, but reversed course today, said Bill Miller, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political affairs.

Once the business group contacted the stations to explain the claims, the ad was reinstated, Mr. Miller said. Arguing that the ad was false, the Sestak campaign cited a recent vote against an amendment on the DISCLOSE Act — a bill to restrict campaign financing — as evidence that Mr. Sestak is not always in line with the Ms. Pelosi, and thus claiming the ad is false.

Now get this: Sestak’s argument for pulling the ad was that he hasn’t voted 100 percent of the time with Pelosi — only 97.8 percent. OK, this just isn’t very bright. He’s now done a bang-up job of reinforcing the argument that it’s a bad thing to be a rubber stamp for Pelosi. And he’s heightened the awareness that he’s one of the chief rubber-stampers. Pat Toomey’s campaign was clearly delighted:

“There’s a good reason why all of the television stations aren’t buying Joe Sestak’s laughable complaint,” Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “It’s because it simply isn’t true. Over his 3 1/2 years in Congress, Joe Sestak has marched in lockstep with liberal Nancy Pelosi, voting for all the major elements of her leftwing agenda, from serial bailouts, to government-run health care, to a cap-and-trade energy tax, to ballooning deficits, to billions of dollars in new tax increases. No wonder Congressman Sestak doesn’t want Pennsylvanians to see the ad.”

That’s just a layup for the Toomey camp. So what is Sestak thinking? Got me. You can’t simply stifle the opposition when they remind voters of inconvenient facts, whether it is on domestic or foreign policy. But it is interesting to know that association with Nancy Pelosi strikes fear in the hearts of even the most liberal Democrats.

Last week, we witnessed Joe Sestak’s lawyer fail to get Comcast to pull ECI’s ad. In doing so, Sestak only succeeded in calling attention to the problematic aspects of his stance toward Israel, most particularly his CAIR speech in 2007. (J Street has not replied to my queries as to whether the group had read the speech before endorsing Sestak, whether it agreed with Sestak’s praise of CAIR, and whether J Street believes CAIR has ties to Hamas and Hezbollah.) But this is not an isolated gambit. Trying to shut up his critics appears to be his entire media strategy so far. The local Pennsylvania press reports:

Two Pittsburgh-area television stations have put ads attacking Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak back on the air after yanking them earlier this week.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had bought the ad time on 21 stations across Pennsylvania, but the Sestak campaign protested as inaccurate the portions of the spot in which the organization accuses Mr. Sestak of voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 100 percent of the time.

WPGH and WPMY, sister stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, pulled the ads from the air for a day, but reversed course today, said Bill Miller, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political affairs.

Once the business group contacted the stations to explain the claims, the ad was reinstated, Mr. Miller said. Arguing that the ad was false, the Sestak campaign cited a recent vote against an amendment on the DISCLOSE Act — a bill to restrict campaign financing — as evidence that Mr. Sestak is not always in line with the Ms. Pelosi, and thus claiming the ad is false.

Now get this: Sestak’s argument for pulling the ad was that he hasn’t voted 100 percent of the time with Pelosi — only 97.8 percent. OK, this just isn’t very bright. He’s now done a bang-up job of reinforcing the argument that it’s a bad thing to be a rubber stamp for Pelosi. And he’s heightened the awareness that he’s one of the chief rubber-stampers. Pat Toomey’s campaign was clearly delighted:

“There’s a good reason why all of the television stations aren’t buying Joe Sestak’s laughable complaint,” Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said. “It’s because it simply isn’t true. Over his 3 1/2 years in Congress, Joe Sestak has marched in lockstep with liberal Nancy Pelosi, voting for all the major elements of her leftwing agenda, from serial bailouts, to government-run health care, to a cap-and-trade energy tax, to ballooning deficits, to billions of dollars in new tax increases. No wonder Congressman Sestak doesn’t want Pennsylvanians to see the ad.”

That’s just a layup for the Toomey camp. So what is Sestak thinking? Got me. You can’t simply stifle the opposition when they remind voters of inconvenient facts, whether it is on domestic or foreign policy. But it is interesting to know that association with Nancy Pelosi strikes fear in the hearts of even the most liberal Democrats.

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All Tied Up in Pennsylvania

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows the race for the Senate between Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey to be tied at 43 percent approval for each candidate. A large segment of the electorate doesn’t know enough about either one of them to form an opinion. But Toomey has a higher percentage of Republicans (82 percent) backing him than Sestak does Democrats( 77.5 percent) and leads by a considerable 44-35 percent among independents. Most interesting, however, is how badly Obama is doing:

President Barack Obama’s negative 46 – 49 percent job approval rating is essentially unchanged from his negative 45 – 49 percent score April 8 and his negative 46 – 48 percent score May 13. It is, however, a dramatic fall from May of 2009, when it was 66 – 29 percent approve. The President’s current job rating reflects 82 – 16 percent disapproval among Republicans, 76 – 19 percent approval among Democrats and 53 – 40 percent disapproval among independent voters.

Pennsylvania voters say 48 – 42 percent that President Obama does not deserve reelection in 2012. In fact, 41 percent of voters say they would vote for an unnamed Republican candidate in 2012, while 40 percent say they would vote for Obama. Independent voters say they would go for a Republican 37 – 33 percent.

“When a politician’s approval rating is down 13 points among independent voters, that is generally a sign of political vulnerability,” said Brown. “The 6-point margin held by those who say President Obama doesn’t deserve a second term over those who think he does also should make the White House nervous, especially since Pennsylvania has not voted Republican for president since 1988. Here too, his weakness is among independents, who say 51 – 35 percent he does not deserve a second term.”

Once the Pennsylvania voters learn the degree to which Sestak has rubber-stamped the Obama agenda, the race may widen. But one thing is certain: as long as Obama’s numbers are this bad, he’s not going to be doing a lot of campaigning in the Keystone state for Sestak. The last thing Sestak needs is to remind the voters that he’s marched in lockstep with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows the race for the Senate between Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey to be tied at 43 percent approval for each candidate. A large segment of the electorate doesn’t know enough about either one of them to form an opinion. But Toomey has a higher percentage of Republicans (82 percent) backing him than Sestak does Democrats( 77.5 percent) and leads by a considerable 44-35 percent among independents. Most interesting, however, is how badly Obama is doing:

President Barack Obama’s negative 46 – 49 percent job approval rating is essentially unchanged from his negative 45 – 49 percent score April 8 and his negative 46 – 48 percent score May 13. It is, however, a dramatic fall from May of 2009, when it was 66 – 29 percent approve. The President’s current job rating reflects 82 – 16 percent disapproval among Republicans, 76 – 19 percent approval among Democrats and 53 – 40 percent disapproval among independent voters.

Pennsylvania voters say 48 – 42 percent that President Obama does not deserve reelection in 2012. In fact, 41 percent of voters say they would vote for an unnamed Republican candidate in 2012, while 40 percent say they would vote for Obama. Independent voters say they would go for a Republican 37 – 33 percent.

“When a politician’s approval rating is down 13 points among independent voters, that is generally a sign of political vulnerability,” said Brown. “The 6-point margin held by those who say President Obama doesn’t deserve a second term over those who think he does also should make the White House nervous, especially since Pennsylvania has not voted Republican for president since 1988. Here too, his weakness is among independents, who say 51 – 35 percent he does not deserve a second term.”

Once the Pennsylvania voters learn the degree to which Sestak has rubber-stamped the Obama agenda, the race may widen. But one thing is certain: as long as Obama’s numbers are this bad, he’s not going to be doing a lot of campaigning in the Keystone state for Sestak. The last thing Sestak needs is to remind the voters that he’s marched in lockstep with the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

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Is J Street More Trouble Than It’s Worth?

J Street is backing Joe Sestak, providing both an endorsement and funding. He is their ideal candidate — willing to keynote at a CAIR fundraiser, unbothered by Obama’s Israel-bashing, happy to sign on to J Street’s letter on lifting the Gaza blockade, and left-leaning on everything else. This, of course, has raised concerns within the Jewish community. During the primary, Sen. Arlen Specter went after his opponent:

When addressing them at the May 2 forum, [Specter] went into great detail, describing his Jewish upbringing and choosing to focus much of his presentation on the issue of Israel. Responding to a question from the audience, he attacked his rival’s decision to participate at a meeting sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that critics have accused of accommodating antisemitic views. “Sestak showed a lack of experience and sensitivity,” Specter said accusingly, later adding that “in the DNA” of the Jewish people, “we have memory of the pogroms.”

In May the contrast between Sestak and Specter, an ardent Israel supporter, was quite evident in an interview with the Jewish Exponent:

Do you believe a unified Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel? If not, should Israel freeze all its building in eastern Jerusalem?

Specter: Jerusalem is the rightful capital of Israel. In 1983, I joined Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) in introducing legislation to require the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I continue to support legislation requiring such a move.

Sestak: Both issues are ones that should be worked out between Israel and the Palestinians with the United States “in the room”; nothing should be mandated — by the administration or by Congress — upon the two parties as a condition for peace or at the beginning of the peace process.

Hmm, doesn’t exactly sound like Sestak is solid on the issue. (Sestak’s office did not respond to an inquiry as to his position on this and other issues relating to Israel.)

Now, candidates are sometimes willing to take flack over their support from a politically controversial group in exchange for handsome financing. Many a Democrat, for example, has taken his lumps for “being in the pocket of labor bosses”; the consolation is the robust funds they receive from organized labor. So has the J Street endorsement been worth the trouble it has caused Sestak?

It sure doesn’t look that way: “GOP U.S. Senate nominee Pat Toomey raised roughly $1 million more than Democratic opponent Joe Sestak in the latest fundraising quarter, according to numbers provided by each campaign Tuesday, another indication the Republican could posses a significant financial advantage in the general election race.” It seems that the J Street endorsement really isn’t paying off. It may be that pro-Israel voters in Pennsylvania are already voting — with their checkbooks — against Sestak. Unfortunately for Sestak, J Street hasn’t begun to make up the difference.

We’ll see how this plays out in Pennsylvania and in races around the country in which J Street has bestowed its endorsement, but perhaps not sufficient funds, on leftist Democrats. One lesson of this election may well be that a J Street endorsement is the kiss of political death for those foolish enough to adhere to its extreme agenda with the expectation that J Street can provide ample financial support.

J Street is backing Joe Sestak, providing both an endorsement and funding. He is their ideal candidate — willing to keynote at a CAIR fundraiser, unbothered by Obama’s Israel-bashing, happy to sign on to J Street’s letter on lifting the Gaza blockade, and left-leaning on everything else. This, of course, has raised concerns within the Jewish community. During the primary, Sen. Arlen Specter went after his opponent:

When addressing them at the May 2 forum, [Specter] went into great detail, describing his Jewish upbringing and choosing to focus much of his presentation on the issue of Israel. Responding to a question from the audience, he attacked his rival’s decision to participate at a meeting sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that critics have accused of accommodating antisemitic views. “Sestak showed a lack of experience and sensitivity,” Specter said accusingly, later adding that “in the DNA” of the Jewish people, “we have memory of the pogroms.”

In May the contrast between Sestak and Specter, an ardent Israel supporter, was quite evident in an interview with the Jewish Exponent:

Do you believe a unified Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel? If not, should Israel freeze all its building in eastern Jerusalem?

Specter: Jerusalem is the rightful capital of Israel. In 1983, I joined Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) in introducing legislation to require the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I continue to support legislation requiring such a move.

Sestak: Both issues are ones that should be worked out between Israel and the Palestinians with the United States “in the room”; nothing should be mandated — by the administration or by Congress — upon the two parties as a condition for peace or at the beginning of the peace process.

Hmm, doesn’t exactly sound like Sestak is solid on the issue. (Sestak’s office did not respond to an inquiry as to his position on this and other issues relating to Israel.)

Now, candidates are sometimes willing to take flack over their support from a politically controversial group in exchange for handsome financing. Many a Democrat, for example, has taken his lumps for “being in the pocket of labor bosses”; the consolation is the robust funds they receive from organized labor. So has the J Street endorsement been worth the trouble it has caused Sestak?

It sure doesn’t look that way: “GOP U.S. Senate nominee Pat Toomey raised roughly $1 million more than Democratic opponent Joe Sestak in the latest fundraising quarter, according to numbers provided by each campaign Tuesday, another indication the Republican could posses a significant financial advantage in the general election race.” It seems that the J Street endorsement really isn’t paying off. It may be that pro-Israel voters in Pennsylvania are already voting — with their checkbooks — against Sestak. Unfortunately for Sestak, J Street hasn’t begun to make up the difference.

We’ll see how this plays out in Pennsylvania and in races around the country in which J Street has bestowed its endorsement, but perhaps not sufficient funds, on leftist Democrats. One lesson of this election may well be that a J Street endorsement is the kiss of political death for those foolish enough to adhere to its extreme agenda with the expectation that J Street can provide ample financial support.

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Game On in Pennsylvania — and California

Ben Smith reports that the Joe Sestak campaign has taken exception to the accusation that he isn’t pro-Israel. Although Sestak spoke at a CAIR fundraiser, signed the Gaza 54 letter, and is J Street endorsed (precisely because he’s shown to have more in common with Rep. Ron Paul than Sen. Joe Lieberman when it comes to the Jewish state), his campaign says it is “silly” to question his pro-Israel bona fides. The campaign spokeswoman for Pat Toomey’s campaign, Nachama Soloveichik, responded to our request for comment:

Joe Sestak has consistently aligned himself with the Congressional faction that is most hostile to Israel. Everyone in that faction of politicians also calls themselves “pro-Israel.” Talk is cheap.

This sounds like a good debate topic: who’s the real friend of Israel, Toomey or Sestak? Why would J Street, which has cheered Obama’s Israel-bashing, opposed Iran sanctions, and called for a lifting of the Gaza blockade, invest in Sestak? The voters of Pennsylvania deserve some candid answers.

Meanwhile, in the California Senate race, Israel may become an issue as well. Barbara Boxer has enjoyed strong Jewish support in the past, but she has been utterly silent when it comes to Obama’s serial-bashing of Israel. This is not going unnoticed by the Carly Fiorina campaign. Fiorina press secretary Andrea Saul tells me: “Carly Fiorina is a strong supporter of Israel and recognizes the importance of our countries’ partnership. While she has been disappointed by President Obama and his administration’s approach to Israel since he took office, she hopes that efforts such as this group’s will help ensure our elected officials will stand on the side of our longstanding Democratic ally and continue to strengthen our ties with the country, not the opposite.”

So what say you, Barbara Boxer? A debate in California on this subject would also be enlightening, given the fact that Boxer has been more critical of the general who called her “Ma’am” than of the Obami assault on Israel.

Ben Smith reports that the Joe Sestak campaign has taken exception to the accusation that he isn’t pro-Israel. Although Sestak spoke at a CAIR fundraiser, signed the Gaza 54 letter, and is J Street endorsed (precisely because he’s shown to have more in common with Rep. Ron Paul than Sen. Joe Lieberman when it comes to the Jewish state), his campaign says it is “silly” to question his pro-Israel bona fides. The campaign spokeswoman for Pat Toomey’s campaign, Nachama Soloveichik, responded to our request for comment:

Joe Sestak has consistently aligned himself with the Congressional faction that is most hostile to Israel. Everyone in that faction of politicians also calls themselves “pro-Israel.” Talk is cheap.

This sounds like a good debate topic: who’s the real friend of Israel, Toomey or Sestak? Why would J Street, which has cheered Obama’s Israel-bashing, opposed Iran sanctions, and called for a lifting of the Gaza blockade, invest in Sestak? The voters of Pennsylvania deserve some candid answers.

Meanwhile, in the California Senate race, Israel may become an issue as well. Barbara Boxer has enjoyed strong Jewish support in the past, but she has been utterly silent when it comes to Obama’s serial-bashing of Israel. This is not going unnoticed by the Carly Fiorina campaign. Fiorina press secretary Andrea Saul tells me: “Carly Fiorina is a strong supporter of Israel and recognizes the importance of our countries’ partnership. While she has been disappointed by President Obama and his administration’s approach to Israel since he took office, she hopes that efforts such as this group’s will help ensure our elected officials will stand on the side of our longstanding Democratic ally and continue to strengthen our ties with the country, not the opposite.”

So what say you, Barbara Boxer? A debate in California on this subject would also be enlightening, given the fact that Boxer has been more critical of the general who called her “Ma’am” than of the Obami assault on Israel.

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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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Pennsylvania Swings Red

The latest Rasmussen poll shows that Pat Toomey has a 45-to-39 percent lead over Joe Sestak. The pollster explains:

This is the seventh Rasmussen Reports survey of the race in 2010, and a review of prior results highlights just how stable it’s been to date. Toomey’s support has stayed in a very narrow range of 42% to 47%.

Sestak’s support has showed more movement, ranging from a low of 36% to a high of 46%. However, most of that movement came as he surged to victory over Specter in the Democratic primary. Other than polling conducted just before and just after the primary election, the Democratic nominee’s support has remained between 36% and 38%.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans support Toomey, while 70% of Democrats say they’re voting for Sestak. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Republican has a nine-point advantage.

Recall that Obama carried the state in 2008 by a margin of 54.7-to-44.3 percent. Obama, in other words, has presided over a 16-point swing in the electorate in that state. And it’s not just Sestak.

Politico reports:

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is well aware that the Democrat who wants to succeed him is facing an uphill battle. The two-term Democratic governor said in an interview Wednesday that while he supports nominee Dan Onorato, he knows he’s the “underdog” in the race and the GOP nominee, Attorney General Tom Corbett, “ is still a “tough candidate to beat.” …

Rendell wasn’t shy about listing those home-state House members he believes will have tough elections this fall. In the 2006 and 2008 cycles, Pennsylvania Democrats made remarkable gains by picking up five House seats. In the 2010 cycle, Rendell cited the top five Democratic incumbents he believes are in competitive races: Patrick Murphy, Chris Carney, Kathy Dahlkemper, Jason Altmire and Tim Holden.

As in many states that had of late voted strongly Democratic, the Obama era is forcing the electorate in Pennsylvania to rethink its partisan preferences. Having seen Obama and a Democratic Congress in action, Pennsylvania voters are more than willing to let the Republicans have a shot. It will now be up to the GOP contenders in all these race to make the case for themselves, but the first argument for their re-election will be: look what the Democrats have done.

The latest Rasmussen poll shows that Pat Toomey has a 45-to-39 percent lead over Joe Sestak. The pollster explains:

This is the seventh Rasmussen Reports survey of the race in 2010, and a review of prior results highlights just how stable it’s been to date. Toomey’s support has stayed in a very narrow range of 42% to 47%.

Sestak’s support has showed more movement, ranging from a low of 36% to a high of 46%. However, most of that movement came as he surged to victory over Specter in the Democratic primary. Other than polling conducted just before and just after the primary election, the Democratic nominee’s support has remained between 36% and 38%.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans support Toomey, while 70% of Democrats say they’re voting for Sestak. Among voters not affiliated with either major party, the Republican has a nine-point advantage.

Recall that Obama carried the state in 2008 by a margin of 54.7-to-44.3 percent. Obama, in other words, has presided over a 16-point swing in the electorate in that state. And it’s not just Sestak.

Politico reports:

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is well aware that the Democrat who wants to succeed him is facing an uphill battle. The two-term Democratic governor said in an interview Wednesday that while he supports nominee Dan Onorato, he knows he’s the “underdog” in the race and the GOP nominee, Attorney General Tom Corbett, “ is still a “tough candidate to beat.” …

Rendell wasn’t shy about listing those home-state House members he believes will have tough elections this fall. In the 2006 and 2008 cycles, Pennsylvania Democrats made remarkable gains by picking up five House seats. In the 2010 cycle, Rendell cited the top five Democratic incumbents he believes are in competitive races: Patrick Murphy, Chris Carney, Kathy Dahlkemper, Jason Altmire and Tim Holden.

As in many states that had of late voted strongly Democratic, the Obama era is forcing the electorate in Pennsylvania to rethink its partisan preferences. Having seen Obama and a Democratic Congress in action, Pennsylvania voters are more than willing to let the Republicans have a shot. It will now be up to the GOP contenders in all these race to make the case for themselves, but the first argument for their re-election will be: look what the Democrats have done.

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Sestak Worries Democrats

Politico reports:

Four weeks after claiming the Pennsylvania Senate nomination, Rep. Joe Sestak continues to have an awkward relationship with many leaders of the state’s Democratic establishment — with the two-term congressman so far neglecting to check many of the boxes that ordinarily would be routine for a candidate trying to unify his party after a hard-fought primary.

It’s been nearly a month since the May 18 primary, and key local party leaders have not been in close contact with Sestak. His unorthodox campaign organization is unnerving Democratic officials, and his public comments suggest he hasn’t forgotten the rough treatment he received from the White House and the state party establishment, both of which worked furiously to deliver the nomination to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter. All of it has Democrats wondering about the pace and direction of his bid against Republican nominee Pat Toomey.

Perhaps this is sour grapes coming from party insiders who picked the other guy. But if the insiders are correct — that Sestak lacks staffing and an actual campaign manager — that’s a problem. And we hear that Sestak isn’t the ideal boss. (“On Capitol Hill, Sestak’s office is known for its high staff turnover rate, and several staffers left his primary campaign over the course of its nine months in existence. He has relied heavily on his brother and his sister, who manages his prolific campaign fundraising, for his House races and also for his Senate bid.”)

A bigger problem is that Toomey is beginning to set the terms of the campaign — making hay out of the job-offer scandal and painting Sestak as out of the mainstream on everything from energy to Israel. There’s still time for Sestak to get his act together, but he better do so fast before Democrats decide to spend time and money on more viable survivors of the Republican wave heading their way.

Politico reports:

Four weeks after claiming the Pennsylvania Senate nomination, Rep. Joe Sestak continues to have an awkward relationship with many leaders of the state’s Democratic establishment — with the two-term congressman so far neglecting to check many of the boxes that ordinarily would be routine for a candidate trying to unify his party after a hard-fought primary.

It’s been nearly a month since the May 18 primary, and key local party leaders have not been in close contact with Sestak. His unorthodox campaign organization is unnerving Democratic officials, and his public comments suggest he hasn’t forgotten the rough treatment he received from the White House and the state party establishment, both of which worked furiously to deliver the nomination to party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter. All of it has Democrats wondering about the pace and direction of his bid against Republican nominee Pat Toomey.

Perhaps this is sour grapes coming from party insiders who picked the other guy. But if the insiders are correct — that Sestak lacks staffing and an actual campaign manager — that’s a problem. And we hear that Sestak isn’t the ideal boss. (“On Capitol Hill, Sestak’s office is known for its high staff turnover rate, and several staffers left his primary campaign over the course of its nine months in existence. He has relied heavily on his brother and his sister, who manages his prolific campaign fundraising, for his House races and also for his Senate bid.”)

A bigger problem is that Toomey is beginning to set the terms of the campaign — making hay out of the job-offer scandal and painting Sestak as out of the mainstream on everything from energy to Israel. There’s still time for Sestak to get his act together, but he better do so fast before Democrats decide to spend time and money on more viable survivors of the Republican wave heading their way.

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Sestak May Need a Job After All

Here is the latest on the Pennsylvania Senate race:

Congressman Joe Sestak’s post-primary bounce appears to over, and he now trails Republican rival Pat Toomey by seven points in the U.S. Senate contest in Pennsylvania. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Pennsylvania shows Toomey with 45% support, while Sestak earns 38%.

The bounce may be over, but the job-offer story may not be, and may, in fact, be pushing Sestak’s numbers down. Moreover, Toomey has come out of the blocks with effective ads that compare the candidates’ records and that offer a well-modulated call for Sestak and the White House to come clean on the job scandal. There is still a long way to go until November, but Toomey is off to a strong start, and he has yet to exploit fully Sestak’s ultraliberal record on domestic and foreign policy.

Here is the latest on the Pennsylvania Senate race:

Congressman Joe Sestak’s post-primary bounce appears to over, and he now trails Republican rival Pat Toomey by seven points in the U.S. Senate contest in Pennsylvania. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Pennsylvania shows Toomey with 45% support, while Sestak earns 38%.

The bounce may be over, but the job-offer story may not be, and may, in fact, be pushing Sestak’s numbers down. Moreover, Toomey has come out of the blocks with effective ads that compare the candidates’ records and that offer a well-modulated call for Sestak and the White House to come clean on the job scandal. There is still a long way to go until November, but Toomey is off to a strong start, and he has yet to exploit fully Sestak’s ultraliberal record on domestic and foreign policy.

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Toomey Stands with Israel

Senate candidate Pat Toomey has issued a strong statement in support of Israel’s right of self-defense in the flotilla incident. So what say you, Joe Sestak? Recall that the J Street–backed candidate signed on to a letter urging Israel to put aside security concerns and lift the blockade of Gaza. So has he changed his views on the threat posed by Hamas, or will he join the Israel-bashers and their cousins, the moral-equivalence crowd?

It is time to stand up for Israel and to examine the records of candidates as to how they’ve addressed Israeli security needs and the condemnation of the “international community” when Israel must defend itself.

Senate candidate Pat Toomey has issued a strong statement in support of Israel’s right of self-defense in the flotilla incident. So what say you, Joe Sestak? Recall that the J Street–backed candidate signed on to a letter urging Israel to put aside security concerns and lift the blockade of Gaza. So has he changed his views on the threat posed by Hamas, or will he join the Israel-bashers and their cousins, the moral-equivalence crowd?

It is time to stand up for Israel and to examine the records of candidates as to how they’ve addressed Israeli security needs and the condemnation of the “international community” when Israel must defend itself.

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Did Obama Lose a Vote for Kagan by Stiffing Specter?

For those who doubted that there is life after death — at least after political death — according to the Daily Beast, Arlen Specter may use his last months in office to exact revenge on President Obama for stiffing him during the last days of his ill-fated attempt to win the Democratic nomination to retain his Senate seat.

The Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin speculates that the always-shifty Specter may get even with Obama for failing to show up as promised at rallies in Pennsylvania in the waning days of the primary to boost his candidacy. After disastrous appearances boosting presidential favorites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia in the past year, Obama wisely chose to avoid a repeat of those fiascos. All this leads some Specter associates quoted by Sarlin to think that the always-cranky senator may turn on Obama and shift to the right on some votes in the seven months left to him in the upper chamber.

The first victim of Snarlin’ Arlen’s payback could be Obama’s Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan, whose nomination helped remind Pennsylvania Democrats of Specter’s GOP past, since he voted against her confirmation to the post of solicitor general only last year. Freed from the need to appease liberal Democratic voters — who wound up flocking to successful challenger Rep. Joe Sestak anyway — former Specter staffers Roger Stone and Dave Urban both say they’d bet the senator will find a reason to vote against her again, if for no other reason than to poke the White House in the eye.

But the problem with this theory is the same as any other prediction of Specter’s behavior. Anyone who tries to figure out how he will come down on an issue using any rationale other than Specter’s self-interest is bound to fail. Moreover, while it makes sense to think that the 80-year-old Specter will now fade quietly into the night after what amounts to a rejection by both parties in the past year (since the only reason he fled to the Democrats was because he knew he would be beaten in the GOP primary by Republican Pat Toomey), it’s hard to imagine how a man so addicted to the prestige and power of public office will adjust to private life. So it is just as likely that Specter may hope that a few more months as a loyal Democrat, including swallowing the bitter pill of campaigning for Sestak in the general election, will earn him something from Obama after January.

While the notion of Obama’s giving him any sort of post may be a fantasy, perhaps a man who loved foreign travel on the government’s tab as much as Specter did harbors hopes of doing so again in some capacity other than that of senator. Given his long love affair with the Assad regime in Syria, Specter may even dream of some involvement in the Middle East on behalf of Obama. Of course, Obama would have to be crazy to trust Specter in such a capacity (or any capacity, for that matter), but as tempting as revenge for his last-minute betrayal by Obama may be, the senator’s ambition to continue his career in some way might be enough to keep him in line. If Specter sticks to his pre-primary pose as a loyal supporter of Obama by voting for Kagan or working hard for Sestak, whose poor record on Israel was trashed by his own backers, then it may be that the senator hopes that we haven’t heard the last of him.

For those who doubted that there is life after death — at least after political death — according to the Daily Beast, Arlen Specter may use his last months in office to exact revenge on President Obama for stiffing him during the last days of his ill-fated attempt to win the Democratic nomination to retain his Senate seat.

The Beast’s Benjamin Sarlin speculates that the always-shifty Specter may get even with Obama for failing to show up as promised at rallies in Pennsylvania in the waning days of the primary to boost his candidacy. After disastrous appearances boosting presidential favorites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia in the past year, Obama wisely chose to avoid a repeat of those fiascos. All this leads some Specter associates quoted by Sarlin to think that the always-cranky senator may turn on Obama and shift to the right on some votes in the seven months left to him in the upper chamber.

The first victim of Snarlin’ Arlen’s payback could be Obama’s Supreme Court pick Elena Kagan, whose nomination helped remind Pennsylvania Democrats of Specter’s GOP past, since he voted against her confirmation to the post of solicitor general only last year. Freed from the need to appease liberal Democratic voters — who wound up flocking to successful challenger Rep. Joe Sestak anyway — former Specter staffers Roger Stone and Dave Urban both say they’d bet the senator will find a reason to vote against her again, if for no other reason than to poke the White House in the eye.

But the problem with this theory is the same as any other prediction of Specter’s behavior. Anyone who tries to figure out how he will come down on an issue using any rationale other than Specter’s self-interest is bound to fail. Moreover, while it makes sense to think that the 80-year-old Specter will now fade quietly into the night after what amounts to a rejection by both parties in the past year (since the only reason he fled to the Democrats was because he knew he would be beaten in the GOP primary by Republican Pat Toomey), it’s hard to imagine how a man so addicted to the prestige and power of public office will adjust to private life. So it is just as likely that Specter may hope that a few more months as a loyal Democrat, including swallowing the bitter pill of campaigning for Sestak in the general election, will earn him something from Obama after January.

While the notion of Obama’s giving him any sort of post may be a fantasy, perhaps a man who loved foreign travel on the government’s tab as much as Specter did harbors hopes of doing so again in some capacity other than that of senator. Given his long love affair with the Assad regime in Syria, Specter may even dream of some involvement in the Middle East on behalf of Obama. Of course, Obama would have to be crazy to trust Specter in such a capacity (or any capacity, for that matter), but as tempting as revenge for his last-minute betrayal by Obama may be, the senator’s ambition to continue his career in some way might be enough to keep him in line. If Specter sticks to his pre-primary pose as a loyal supporter of Obama by voting for Kagan or working hard for Sestak, whose poor record on Israel was trashed by his own backers, then it may be that the senator hopes that we haven’t heard the last of him.

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Sestak Under Fire

Rep. Joe Sestak is under fire from all quarters. First, this boffo ad from Keep Israel Safe slams him for his record on Israel and on terrorism:

Then the Philly media gets on his case for JobsGate (the alleged job offer to get out of the primary race):

When asked about the accusation, as he was again Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sestak says, yes, the offer was made. But he won’t say what it was, or who made it.

This too-cute-by-half stance may allow him to tout his independence and outsider credentials — important in an anti-incumbent year like this one. But by not being specific, Sestak is covering up what appears to be the ultimate insider deal — and a potential crime.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, has every reason to capitalize on both of these points of weakness. First, Toomey has been a strong critic of Obama’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel. Second, although he previously served in Congress, in this race he’s the outsider (and former Club for Growth president) who can take on Washington’s backroom dealing and spend-a-thon. In Pennsylvania, both of those themes may be winners. And if they are, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders will take note.

UPDATE: Gov. Ed Rendell is now calling for Sestak to cough up more facts. I suspect he wouldn’t have done so if the White House was not on board. Is Obama hanging Sestak out to dry or coming up with a cover story? Stay tuned.

Rep. Joe Sestak is under fire from all quarters. First, this boffo ad from Keep Israel Safe slams him for his record on Israel and on terrorism:

Then the Philly media gets on his case for JobsGate (the alleged job offer to get out of the primary race):

When asked about the accusation, as he was again Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Sestak says, yes, the offer was made. But he won’t say what it was, or who made it.

This too-cute-by-half stance may allow him to tout his independence and outsider credentials — important in an anti-incumbent year like this one. But by not being specific, Sestak is covering up what appears to be the ultimate insider deal — and a potential crime.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, has every reason to capitalize on both of these points of weakness. First, Toomey has been a strong critic of Obama’s policies with respect to Iran and Israel. Second, although he previously served in Congress, in this race he’s the outsider (and former Club for Growth president) who can take on Washington’s backroom dealing and spend-a-thon. In Pennsylvania, both of those themes may be winners. And if they are, the 2012 GOP presidential contenders will take note.

UPDATE: Gov. Ed Rendell is now calling for Sestak to cough up more facts. I suspect he wouldn’t have done so if the White House was not on board. Is Obama hanging Sestak out to dry or coming up with a cover story? Stay tuned.

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Sestak’s Stall Not Working

Joe Sestak, not unlike Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal, has gotten off to a poor start, which threatens to drag him under before the general election race starts in earnest. Even the New York Times is shining a light on the cooperative stonewall going on between the least transparent White House in history and Sestak:

For three months, the White House has refused to say whether it offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak to induce him to drop his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary, as Mr. Sestak has asserted. But the White House wants everyone who suspects that something untoward, or even illegal, might have happened to rest easy: it still will not reveal what happened, but the White House says it has examined its own actions and decided that it did nothing wrong. Whatever it was that it did.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “trust us” response from the White House has not exactly put the matter to rest. Though Mr. Sestak stayed in the race, and defeated Mr. Specter in the primary last Tuesday, the questions have returned with intensity and remain unanswered. Mr. Gibbs deflected questions about the matter 13 times at a White House news briefing last Thursday, while Mr. Sestak reaffirmed his assertion without providing any specifics about what the offer was or who made it.

There are two possibilities here. One is that Sestak was embellishing or outright fibbing, and the White House doesn’t want to hang him out to dry (unlike what happened to Harry Reid). The other is that there was some kind of offer, which might be illegal but is — in any case — the epitome of Washington insiderness and backroom deals, which the voters have come to loathe.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, echoes the New York Times (yeah, it’s a weird election year all right), putting out a statement that is restrained in tone but asks for a full accounting: “My response is simply this: Congressman Sestak should tell the public everything he knows about the job he was offered, and who offered it.  To do otherwise will only continue to raise questions and continue to be a needless distraction in this campaign.”

It is a measure of how frustrated the press has become with the perpetual stonewalling and outright contempt this president has shown the media that the Times and other outlets are now aligned with a conservative Republican in demanding that one of the most liberal Democrats on the ballot come clean.

Joe Sestak, not unlike Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal, has gotten off to a poor start, which threatens to drag him under before the general election race starts in earnest. Even the New York Times is shining a light on the cooperative stonewall going on between the least transparent White House in history and Sestak:

For three months, the White House has refused to say whether it offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak to induce him to drop his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary, as Mr. Sestak has asserted. But the White House wants everyone who suspects that something untoward, or even illegal, might have happened to rest easy: it still will not reveal what happened, but the White House says it has examined its own actions and decided that it did nothing wrong. Whatever it was that it did.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “trust us” response from the White House has not exactly put the matter to rest. Though Mr. Sestak stayed in the race, and defeated Mr. Specter in the primary last Tuesday, the questions have returned with intensity and remain unanswered. Mr. Gibbs deflected questions about the matter 13 times at a White House news briefing last Thursday, while Mr. Sestak reaffirmed his assertion without providing any specifics about what the offer was or who made it.

There are two possibilities here. One is that Sestak was embellishing or outright fibbing, and the White House doesn’t want to hang him out to dry (unlike what happened to Harry Reid). The other is that there was some kind of offer, which might be illegal but is — in any case — the epitome of Washington insiderness and backroom deals, which the voters have come to loathe.

His opponent, Pat Toomey, echoes the New York Times (yeah, it’s a weird election year all right), putting out a statement that is restrained in tone but asks for a full accounting: “My response is simply this: Congressman Sestak should tell the public everything he knows about the job he was offered, and who offered it.  To do otherwise will only continue to raise questions and continue to be a needless distraction in this campaign.”

It is a measure of how frustrated the press has become with the perpetual stonewalling and outright contempt this president has shown the media that the Times and other outlets are now aligned with a conservative Republican in demanding that one of the most liberal Democrats on the ballot come clean.

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Can Specter Buy Pennsylvanians Enough Drinks to Stay in Office?

Those of us who love the classic novels of Anthony Trollope and his tales of the travails of the stump in the rough-and-tumble world of Victorian British politics could not help but smile at the description in today’s New York Times of a campaign stop by Arlen Specter at a pub in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The article described the ambivalence of voters about the 80-year-old’s braggadocio about using his influence and patronage to buy the voters support. But in case anybody didn’t get the point of his campaign, the piece’s final line summed it up:

But Mr. Specter stayed on message at the pub. As he was departing, an aide called out to the crowd of 70 people: “Senator Specter just bought the next round, so hit the bar.”

Just like Trollope’s would-be parliamentarians who trolled for votes in pubs by buying the affection of publicans who served up the free pints to the voters, so too, apparently, must Pennsylvania’s senior senator.

But far from being merely an amusing sidebar to the real issues, Specter’s pose as the source of all sorts of free stuff for Pennsylvanians really is the whole focus of his re-election effort. At a black-church service yesterday, he boasted of intimidating the secretary of agriculture into coughing up more money for a local program. Later at a union rally at Philadelphia’s Marine Terminal along the Delaware River, Specter and his ally Governor Ed Rendell bragged about the money he has squeezed out of the federal budget for the region as well as his support for the patronage that rained down from President Obama’s stimulus bill, which he supported.

In any normal political year, these sorts of accomplishments might foreclose the possibility of defeat for Specter. But this isn’t any normal political year. At a time when voters are fed up with out-of-control government spending, some have begun to ask whose money it is that Specter is doling out in small packages to the public and realizing that the answer is … their own. While his opponent Rep. Joe Sestak may not be a disciple of limited government (that choice will be presented to voters in November, when the all-but-certain Republican nominee Pat Toomey will be on the ballot), the Democratic challenger has a point when he notes that the only job Specter is truly interested in saving is his own.

While one should never underestimate the capacity of Pennsylvania’s pro-Specter Democratic machine to turn out compliant voters when they are determined to do so, it would appear that Specter’s desperate last campaign bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the ones described by Trollope. Like the novelist’s protagonists, the senator may discover tomorrow that there are not enough free drinks in the world to buy an election for a candidate that the public won’t stomach.

Those of us who love the classic novels of Anthony Trollope and his tales of the travails of the stump in the rough-and-tumble world of Victorian British politics could not help but smile at the description in today’s New York Times of a campaign stop by Arlen Specter at a pub in Ambler, Pennsylvania. The article described the ambivalence of voters about the 80-year-old’s braggadocio about using his influence and patronage to buy the voters support. But in case anybody didn’t get the point of his campaign, the piece’s final line summed it up:

But Mr. Specter stayed on message at the pub. As he was departing, an aide called out to the crowd of 70 people: “Senator Specter just bought the next round, so hit the bar.”

Just like Trollope’s would-be parliamentarians who trolled for votes in pubs by buying the affection of publicans who served up the free pints to the voters, so too, apparently, must Pennsylvania’s senior senator.

But far from being merely an amusing sidebar to the real issues, Specter’s pose as the source of all sorts of free stuff for Pennsylvanians really is the whole focus of his re-election effort. At a black-church service yesterday, he boasted of intimidating the secretary of agriculture into coughing up more money for a local program. Later at a union rally at Philadelphia’s Marine Terminal along the Delaware River, Specter and his ally Governor Ed Rendell bragged about the money he has squeezed out of the federal budget for the region as well as his support for the patronage that rained down from President Obama’s stimulus bill, which he supported.

In any normal political year, these sorts of accomplishments might foreclose the possibility of defeat for Specter. But this isn’t any normal political year. At a time when voters are fed up with out-of-control government spending, some have begun to ask whose money it is that Specter is doling out in small packages to the public and realizing that the answer is … their own. While his opponent Rep. Joe Sestak may not be a disciple of limited government (that choice will be presented to voters in November, when the all-but-certain Republican nominee Pat Toomey will be on the ballot), the Democratic challenger has a point when he notes that the only job Specter is truly interested in saving is his own.

While one should never underestimate the capacity of Pennsylvania’s pro-Specter Democratic machine to turn out compliant voters when they are determined to do so, it would appear that Specter’s desperate last campaign bears more than a passing resemblance to some of the ones described by Trollope. Like the novelist’s protagonists, the senator may discover tomorrow that there are not enough free drinks in the world to buy an election for a candidate that the public won’t stomach.

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