Commentary Magazine


Topic: Republican Jewish Coalition

Adelson, Democracy, and Anti-Semitism

This week the Republican Jewish Coalition is holding a conference in Las Vegas, the home of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, its most prominent supporter. Like other prominent conservative political donors, Adelson’s largesse to causes and candidates he supports brought him a great deal of scrutiny in 2012 when he and his wife Miriam singlehandedly kept Newt Gingrich’s presidential hopes alive during the GOP primaries. Undeterred by the fact that most of the people they backed in the last election lost, the Adelsons are thinking about 2016. As the Washington Post reported in a feature about the RJC event, some, though not all, Republican presidential hopefuls are eager to win what some wags are calling the “Sheldon primary.” Anyone who supports Israel and the Obama administration’s liberal economic policies is apparently welcome to try. Perhaps extra credit will be given to those who back the magnate’s crusade against Internet gambling. But lest anyone think they are contemplating backing Newt or another outlier, in this cycle the Adelsons are apparently echoing “establishment” GOP thought by emphasizing an ability to win a general election rather than conservative ideological purity in deciding who will benefit from their generosity.

Their willingness to put their money where their mouths are makes them easy targets for abuse from those who don’t care for their politics. But a particularly low blow against them was struck yesterday by the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg, whose reading of the Post feature prompted him to comment that the RJC event seemed more like a plot by Adelson and a “bunch of Jewish zillionaires” to “buy the White House” in order to protect the Jewish state against the rising tide of anti-Semitism around the globe. As such, Goldberg thinks the “Sheldon primary” seems like the sort of thing Jews should either worry about or be ashamed of since he thinks their conduct seems like a classic example of the same kind of anti-Semitic stereotype of Jewish wealth being used to subvert American foreign policy that is cited by some of the worst enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. At the very least, the Forward columnist seems to be saying that Adelson’s political activity is providing fodder for anti-Semites, but this is exactly the sort of reasoning that Jews of every political stripe should reject.

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This week the Republican Jewish Coalition is holding a conference in Las Vegas, the home of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, its most prominent supporter. Like other prominent conservative political donors, Adelson’s largesse to causes and candidates he supports brought him a great deal of scrutiny in 2012 when he and his wife Miriam singlehandedly kept Newt Gingrich’s presidential hopes alive during the GOP primaries. Undeterred by the fact that most of the people they backed in the last election lost, the Adelsons are thinking about 2016. As the Washington Post reported in a feature about the RJC event, some, though not all, Republican presidential hopefuls are eager to win what some wags are calling the “Sheldon primary.” Anyone who supports Israel and the Obama administration’s liberal economic policies is apparently welcome to try. Perhaps extra credit will be given to those who back the magnate’s crusade against Internet gambling. But lest anyone think they are contemplating backing Newt or another outlier, in this cycle the Adelsons are apparently echoing “establishment” GOP thought by emphasizing an ability to win a general election rather than conservative ideological purity in deciding who will benefit from their generosity.

Their willingness to put their money where their mouths are makes them easy targets for abuse from those who don’t care for their politics. But a particularly low blow against them was struck yesterday by the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg, whose reading of the Post feature prompted him to comment that the RJC event seemed more like a plot by Adelson and a “bunch of Jewish zillionaires” to “buy the White House” in order to protect the Jewish state against the rising tide of anti-Semitism around the globe. As such, Goldberg thinks the “Sheldon primary” seems like the sort of thing Jews should either worry about or be ashamed of since he thinks their conduct seems like a classic example of the same kind of anti-Semitic stereotype of Jewish wealth being used to subvert American foreign policy that is cited by some of the worst enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. At the very least, the Forward columnist seems to be saying that Adelson’s political activity is providing fodder for anti-Semites, but this is exactly the sort of reasoning that Jews of every political stripe should reject.

Altogether the Adelsons gave a whopping $93 million to 17 different conservative super-PACs in 2012 and that’s not counting direct contributions to candidates that are limited by law (or the tens of millions that they gave to charitable and Jewish philanthropic causes). For those who think money ought to be driven out of politics, this is unseemly or a threat to democracy. But money is, and always has been, the lifeblood of American politics and the last 40 years of attempts at legislating campaign finance reform have proved that such efforts are counterproductive. Spending money on causes and candidates is an expression of political speech protected by the Constitution. The Adelsons are just as entitled to spend some of their billions to support pro-Israel and pro-economic freedom candidates as the Koch brothers are to support conservatives, George Soros is to back liberals, and hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer is to fund politicians who toe his particular line on environmental issues.

There should also be no misunderstanding about the fact that both sides of the political divide are doing the same thing. As the OpenSecrets.org site run by the left-wing Center for Responsive Politics recently noted, a list of the largest political donors in the period stretching from 1988 to 2014 reveals that most of the biggest givers were in fact inclined to support Democrats and left-wing causes. Twelve of the top 16 names on the list were unions while the other four were business groups that gave to both parties. Koch Industries, run by the aforementioned brothers of that name who are more hated by liberals than are the Adelsons, ranks a paltry 59th on that list.

As they proved in 2012, the Adelsons can’t buy anybody the White House. Nor can the Kochs, Soros, Steyer, or any combination of unions. But all of them have every right to use their wealth to promote the causes and candidates they support or to oppose the ones they dislike.

To imply that there is something untoward or unsavory about Jewish donors acting in the same way that other Americans do, be they union bosses or liberal financiers, is appalling. The essence of democracy is participation and pro-Israel Jews are just as free to use their wealth as those who are interested in preventing global warming. Goldberg is right to worry about anti-Semitism, but Jews being afraid to step out into the public square to advocate for their causes and to spend money to support those who agree with them will not stop it. Fear of antagonizing anti-Semites is what caused the leaders of American Jewry to fail to speak out during the Holocaust. Subsequent generations who mobilized on behalf of the Soviet Jewry movement and for Israel learned that lesson. That Sheldon Adelson and his friends have also done so is to their credit. Rather than being embarrassed by the “Sheldon primary,” pro-Israel Jews and supporters of free speech, be they Democrats or Republicans, should be cheering it.

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GOP Jewish Gains Illustrate Their Problem

The Republican Jewish Coalition released the exit polls they took yesterday and declared victory in the presidential contest. President Obama won re-election, but his share of the Jewish vote in the RJC poll was 68 percent–down from the 78 percent that he received in 2008. Mitt Romney received approximately 32 percent of Jewish ballots, a figure that is about 10 percent more than the paltry 22 percent won by John McCain. Democrats may dispute these figures, but they roughly conform to the results obtained in the national exit poll taken by CNN. Two questions arise out of a careful look at these numbers.

First, what was the primary cause of this rise in the GOP vote? Second, and perhaps even more important, is whether Republicans really ought to be celebrating this result as much as the RJC says they should. The obvious answer to the first question is President Obama’s fractious relationship with the state of Israel. The answer to the second is more complicated. Though Republicans are right to see these numbers as evidence of the incremental progress they’ve made since the party bottomed out among Jews in 1992, they should also be asking themselves if they will ever again have an opportunity to do as well as they did this year.

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The Republican Jewish Coalition released the exit polls they took yesterday and declared victory in the presidential contest. President Obama won re-election, but his share of the Jewish vote in the RJC poll was 68 percent–down from the 78 percent that he received in 2008. Mitt Romney received approximately 32 percent of Jewish ballots, a figure that is about 10 percent more than the paltry 22 percent won by John McCain. Democrats may dispute these figures, but they roughly conform to the results obtained in the national exit poll taken by CNN. Two questions arise out of a careful look at these numbers.

First, what was the primary cause of this rise in the GOP vote? Second, and perhaps even more important, is whether Republicans really ought to be celebrating this result as much as the RJC says they should. The obvious answer to the first question is President Obama’s fractious relationship with the state of Israel. The answer to the second is more complicated. Though Republicans are right to see these numbers as evidence of the incremental progress they’ve made since the party bottomed out among Jews in 1992, they should also be asking themselves if they will ever again have an opportunity to do as well as they did this year.

As for the cause of a nearly 20-percent swing in the Jewish vote since 2008, it is difficult to argue that Israel was not a key factor in explaining the change in the last four years. Though liberals will point out that President Obama lost ground with virtually all demographic groups except for African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters, the gap between the nearly 10 points he lost among Jews and what may turn out to be about a three-percent drop in his overall vote total in 2008 requires an explanation. Since it is highly unlikely that a generally liberal Jewish community was more perturbed by the economy, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that four years of battle between the president and the government of Israel took a toll on Obama’s share of the Jewish vote.

The five- to six-percentage point difference between his overall decline and the ground he lost among Jews is easily understood as the product of the fights Obama picked and the questions his conduct raised among pro-Israel voters about his trustworthiness. While a small percentage of the Jewish vote, it is still a sign that a significant number of Jewish Democrats cared deeply about the issue. Though few Jews consider Israel the No. 1 issue at stake yesterday, the RJC poll reported that 76.5 percent of the respondents consider Israel to be either “very important” (30.2 percent) or “fairly important” (46.3 percent). And that seemed to be reflected in the poll in which 22.8 percent said Obama was “pro-Palestinian” and 17.4 said he was just neutral.

By posting a 50-percent gain over what McCain received, the RJC can claim a moral victory of sorts. It can also credibly assert that with its ad campaigns aimed at Jewish voters, it is building its brand and increasing market share in the community. The 31-32 percent Romney got also marks the highest total for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. That’s nothing to sneeze at and should, at least in theory, scare Democrats into thinking that they are on the wrong end of a trend that could ultimately start to make even more serious inroads into their longtime near-monopoly of the Jewish vote, especially when you consider that Republicans continue to do best among Orthodox Jews, the fastest growing sector of the community.

Those who will argue that the RJC didn’t get much in return for the prodigious effort they made with Jewish voters should take into consideration that the Democrats took this threat seriously. Not only did they campaign hard to defend Obama’s record on Israel in the last year, with extravagant and inaccurate praise of him as the Jewish state’s best friend to ever sit in the White House, the president noticeably adjusted his policies as part of an election-year Jewish charm offensive. Without it, it’s probably the case that Democratic losses would have been much greater.

But the GOP shouldn’t be celebrating too loudly.

The problem with looking at the 2012 results as part of an upward trend for Republicans is that this election was a unique opportunity to win Jewish votes that may not be replicated again for many years.

For more than thirty years, Jewish Republicans have looked to the 1980 election, in which Ronald Reagan set the modern record for the GOP share of the Jewish vote with 39 percent. In that period, they have searched for another Reagan who could do as well. They have found that even when their nominee was considered an even more ardent friend of Israel than the Gipper — as George W. Bush was when he ran for re-election in 2004 — they still fell far short of their goal.

Their problem was that they were looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Instead of another Reagan, what they needed was someone to play the role of Jimmy Carter, the president whose antagonism to Israel set in motion the 1980 exodus of Jewish voters to the GOP. That’s exactly what they got in Obama.

If, as RJC leaders Matt Brooks and Ari Fleischer insisted on a teleconference with the press about the poll today, it was unfair to expect a party to do better than the 10 percent gains they got yesterday, it must still be observed that they are highly unlikely to be presented with as inviting a target four years from now. Indeed, if a Republican couldn’t do better than 32 percent with Obama as an opponent, it’s likely they will lose ground rather than gain more if they are presented with a Democrat who is demonstrably more sympathetic to Israel than the president.

While the growth of the Orthodox community gives the RJC some hope, their encouraging 2012 results are really just more proof of their intractable problem: convincing an overwhelmingly liberal group to vote for Republicans.

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Democrats’ Jewish Problem is Obama

The party line from Democrats this year has been to deny that President Obama is in any trouble of losing Jewish support to Mitt Romney in November. But the announcement that a group of Jewish liberals are seeking to form a group to counter the Republican Jewish Coalition’s campaign against Obama is proof the president is in trouble.

But these Jewish liberal donors who wish to offset the efforts of Romney donors such as Sheldon Adelson are making a mistake if they think all that is needed is to throw some money at the Jewish market. If the RJC’s “buyer’s remorse” ad campaign has traction it is because Jewish voters know that President Obama is, as veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller wrote yesterday, “not in love with the idea of Israel.” This is not, as one Democrat told Politico, a case of Obama being “swift-boated.” The GOP isn’t making up novel criticisms of the president so much as it is simply highlighting what everyone already knows

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The party line from Democrats this year has been to deny that President Obama is in any trouble of losing Jewish support to Mitt Romney in November. But the announcement that a group of Jewish liberals are seeking to form a group to counter the Republican Jewish Coalition’s campaign against Obama is proof the president is in trouble.

But these Jewish liberal donors who wish to offset the efforts of Romney donors such as Sheldon Adelson are making a mistake if they think all that is needed is to throw some money at the Jewish market. If the RJC’s “buyer’s remorse” ad campaign has traction it is because Jewish voters know that President Obama is, as veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller wrote yesterday, “not in love with the idea of Israel.” This is not, as one Democrat told Politico, a case of Obama being “swift-boated.” The GOP isn’t making up novel criticisms of the president so much as it is simply highlighting what everyone already knows

The credibility of those who assert that Obama is the best friend Israel ever had in the White House is undermined not only by the memory of the fights he picked with the Jewish state over the course of his first three years in office or by the fact that he was determined to distance the United States from Israel in an attempt to draw a contrast between his policies and those of his predecessor. The fact that the president has been forced to resort to a Jewish charm offensive intended to erase these incidents from the public’s memory is testimony to the White House’s concern that there will be a political price to be paid for the distance Obama created by himself and the Israeli government.

As Politico noted in the same article, such Republican efforts to eat into the Democrats’ historic advantage among Jewish voters are not new. Major investments were made four and eight years ago to no avail as John Kerry and Barack Obama won huge Jewish majorities that were second only to African-Americans in terms of margins for the Democrats.

The difference this year is not about Republican campaign tactics. It is about the Democrats’ heightened vulnerability. For decades, Jewish Republicans longed for another presidential candidate like Ronald Reagan whose percentage of Jewish votes has not been equaled in the last 30 years. But what they really needed was not another Reagan but another Jimmy Carter. While Obama may not be as unpopular among Jews as Carter, there is little question that his open hostility to Israel’s government will ensure a drastic reduction from the 78 percent of Jewish votes he won in 2008, a loss that could put battleground states like Florida or Pennsylvania in jeopardy for the incumbent. A Democratic campaign targeting Jews may stem some of the bleeding, but their problem is not Adelson, his money or the RJC, let alone Mitt Romney. The Democrats’ only liability as far as Jewish voters are concerned is the man on the top of their ticket.

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Dem Pollster: Jews Could Sink Obama in FL

Could the Jewish vote go Republican this year? The answer, as always, is no, of course not. But President Obama has lost enough ground with Jewish voters to create some problems for himself in Florida, as Democratic pollster Doug Schoen explained on Newsmax TV:

One of Obama’s biggest hurdles: capturing Florida’s Jewish voters. The president, polls show, has about 60-65 percent of the Jewish vote, but, says Schoen, if Obama does not win “a full 75 percent…it could, in fact, be decisive.”

The state is “effectively deadlocked,” said Schoen, the author of Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond.

“Jews are necessarily torn, because they see the president as somebody who, aspirationally, has committed himself to Israel,” he said. “At the same time, there have been concerns about the settlement policy and also about the nature of his commitment to do whatever it takes in Iran.”

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Could the Jewish vote go Republican this year? The answer, as always, is no, of course not. But President Obama has lost enough ground with Jewish voters to create some problems for himself in Florida, as Democratic pollster Doug Schoen explained on Newsmax TV:

One of Obama’s biggest hurdles: capturing Florida’s Jewish voters. The president, polls show, has about 60-65 percent of the Jewish vote, but, says Schoen, if Obama does not win “a full 75 percent…it could, in fact, be decisive.”

The state is “effectively deadlocked,” said Schoen, the author of Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond.

“Jews are necessarily torn, because they see the president as somebody who, aspirationally, has committed himself to Israel,” he said. “At the same time, there have been concerns about the settlement policy and also about the nature of his commitment to do whatever it takes in Iran.”

The familiar debate about the Jewish vote is reigniting now that Romney is visiting Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition is kicking off its swing state campaign. As Jonathan wrote earlier today, the New York Times reports the RJC is reaching out to Jewish voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, in an effort to chip away at Obama’s support base. The majority of Jewish voters still back Obama, but his poll numbers have dipped significantly since 2008:

The group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, plans to begin a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in the coming weeks called “My Buyer’s Remorse,” targeting voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, aides said. The campaign uses testimonials from people who say they regret supporting Mr. Obama because of his economic policies and his posture toward Israel, in hopes of cutting into the wide advantage Democrats have held over Republicans among Jewish voters.

Obama will have a difficult time countering the RJC campaign, as he seems to be lacking in the pro-Israel surrogates department at the moment. Even Obama’s own supporters don’t seem to be denying he’s bad for Israel anymore. J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told the Times that  “The people who vote only on Israel didn’t vote for Obama last time and know who they are voting for already.” So there you have it, directly from J Street. If you judge the president on his Israel policy, you probably won’t support him.

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Obama Buyer’s Remorse Not About Adelson

Ever since the confrontation between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in May of 2011 about the president’s attempt to dictate that the 1967 lines would be the starting point for future Middle East peace negotiations, speculation about the impact of this on the president’s re-election has been intense. Since then, numerous polls have shown it is highly unlikely that Obama would get anywhere close to the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he received in 2008. Republicans are eager to take advantage of this factor in November, much as they did last year when a special election in New York’s 8th congressional district went to the GOP over this issue. But leave it to the New York Times to focus an article on this almost completely on billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the centerpiece of an article on the front page of today’s Times about an ad campaign undertaken by the Republican Jewish Coalition highlighting the “buyer’s remorse” felt by many Jews who voted for the president four years ago but will not support him again because of his stands on Israel and the state of the economy. That the RJC would be running such ads in battleground states is hardly surprising, especially because the question of the Jewish vote being a possibly decisive factor in the outcome this year has been a matter of discussion for months. Not only did I write about this in the March issue of COMMENTARY, but just yesterday, Reuters also devoted a feature to the way Jewish voters could make the difference in Florida. But for the Times, it’s all about Adelson, who, despite being mentioned in the headline (“Mogul’s Latest Foray Courts Jews for the G.O.P.”) and the caption to a photo showing the ads, is just one of several RJC supporters who helped underwrite their production and distribution. Though liberal Jews quoted in the article are in denial about the president’s problems, and the paper would like to make it appear this is merely the function of a plutocrat’s whim, the reason why the ads are resonating is that a significant percentage of Jewish voters have been disillusioned by the president’s attitude toward Israel.

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Ever since the confrontation between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in May of 2011 about the president’s attempt to dictate that the 1967 lines would be the starting point for future Middle East peace negotiations, speculation about the impact of this on the president’s re-election has been intense. Since then, numerous polls have shown it is highly unlikely that Obama would get anywhere close to the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he received in 2008. Republicans are eager to take advantage of this factor in November, much as they did last year when a special election in New York’s 8th congressional district went to the GOP over this issue. But leave it to the New York Times to focus an article on this almost completely on billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the centerpiece of an article on the front page of today’s Times about an ad campaign undertaken by the Republican Jewish Coalition highlighting the “buyer’s remorse” felt by many Jews who voted for the president four years ago but will not support him again because of his stands on Israel and the state of the economy. That the RJC would be running such ads in battleground states is hardly surprising, especially because the question of the Jewish vote being a possibly decisive factor in the outcome this year has been a matter of discussion for months. Not only did I write about this in the March issue of COMMENTARY, but just yesterday, Reuters also devoted a feature to the way Jewish voters could make the difference in Florida. But for the Times, it’s all about Adelson, who, despite being mentioned in the headline (“Mogul’s Latest Foray Courts Jews for the G.O.P.”) and the caption to a photo showing the ads, is just one of several RJC supporters who helped underwrite their production and distribution. Though liberal Jews quoted in the article are in denial about the president’s problems, and the paper would like to make it appear this is merely the function of a plutocrat’s whim, the reason why the ads are resonating is that a significant percentage of Jewish voters have been disillusioned by the president’s attitude toward Israel.

Framing the issue as one that is merely the result of Adelson’s money does little to illuminate a genuine problem for the Democrats. Though liberals are right to claim the president will carry a majority of Jewish votes this year, even the most optimistic polls show his share of the Jewish vote will decline by 10 percent though the decline may turn out to be much greater than that. Mitt Romney, whose trip to Israel this week will help highlight the differences between him and the president, is likely to get the highest percentage of Jewish votes than any Republican since Ronald Reagan. Though in absolute numbers this may not amount to much, in states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the margin between the two candidates will probably be razor thin, this will be meaningful.

The denial of these facts by Obama supporters like J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, who was given the last word in the piece to claim “there is no such thing as a Jewish problem for the president,” is absurd. But you don’t have to believe the Republican Jewish Coalition to understand that the Obama campaign knows it is in trouble with the Jews. All you had to do was to observe the all-out Jewish charm offensive that the administration has been conducting since Obama’s ambush of Netanyahu last year.

For three years, Obama focused on hammering Israel, picking fights with its government and seeking to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians. But once the New York congressional race and national polls made it plain that Obama was bleeding Jewish votes in a manner reminiscent of Jimmy Carter, the president and his surrogates have been working overtime to persuade Jews to accept the dubious assertion that he is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Those efforts will help contain his losses and, as even the Republicans concede, most Jews are such partisan Democrats and so liberal that there is virtually nothing Obama could do to Israel to cause him to get less than 50 percent of the Jewish vote. But a result that saw his share decline to the mid-60 percent level or lower would be a disaster for the Democrats, and they know it.

The president’s Jewish problem would exist even if there were no Sheldon Adelson. But those who wish to demonize the casino mogul would like to change the subject from Obama’s fights with Israel to Adelson’s money. While Adelson is an easy target, attacks on Republican efforts to tap into Jewish buyer’s remorse won’t make the Democrats’ problems disappear.

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More on How the Jewish Groups Did

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s executive director (and CONTENTIONS contributor), Noah Pollak, has released a statement:

Last night was a good night for the US-Israel relationship, with supporters of a strong alliance prevailing over a number of incumbents who had received financial and rhetorical support from anti-Israel groups. In Pennsylvania in particular, there was a close Senate race that resulted in the defeat of a candidate who had accused Israel of war crimes and helped raise money for an organization the FBI later called a front group for Hamas. ECI ran ads informing voters of that record, and no doubt many of those voters share our concerns. We are delighted with the result.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition points out that in 11 races in which RJC-supported candidates faced off against J Street–funded candidates, the RJC candidate came out on top in seven, including three Senate races.

It is important in trying to decipher all this to weed out the candidates who were always going to win and those who were never going to win. When you get down to competitive races, J Street proved to be no help to its chosen candidates and a great deal of trouble. In the future, do you think mainstream Democrats with a generally good record on Israel are going to take money from J Street? No. Why in the world would they? That will leave J Street with its hardened group of donors and the fringe Israel-bashers. Not so influential, I suppose. Maybe their big donor and his friend from Hong Kong will close up shop and spend their largess on groups that haven’t made themselves irrelevant.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s executive director (and CONTENTIONS contributor), Noah Pollak, has released a statement:

Last night was a good night for the US-Israel relationship, with supporters of a strong alliance prevailing over a number of incumbents who had received financial and rhetorical support from anti-Israel groups. In Pennsylvania in particular, there was a close Senate race that resulted in the defeat of a candidate who had accused Israel of war crimes and helped raise money for an organization the FBI later called a front group for Hamas. ECI ran ads informing voters of that record, and no doubt many of those voters share our concerns. We are delighted with the result.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition points out that in 11 races in which RJC-supported candidates faced off against J Street–funded candidates, the RJC candidate came out on top in seven, including three Senate races.

It is important in trying to decipher all this to weed out the candidates who were always going to win and those who were never going to win. When you get down to competitive races, J Street proved to be no help to its chosen candidates and a great deal of trouble. In the future, do you think mainstream Democrats with a generally good record on Israel are going to take money from J Street? No. Why in the world would they? That will leave J Street with its hardened group of donors and the fringe Israel-bashers. Not so influential, I suppose. Maybe their big donor and his friend from Hong Kong will close up shop and spend their largess on groups that haven’t made themselves irrelevant.

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How Did the Jewish Groups Do?

We have seen, to the chagrin of the left, more attention in an off-year election on Israel than we get in most presidential races. The Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition have reasons to crow. ECI made Joe Sestak its top priority, featured him in its debut ad, and remained a thorn in his side throughout the race. The RJC spent an unprecedented amount of money on the race. These groups didn’t target Joe Sestak by accident or pick an easy race. Sestak was the quintessential faux pro-Israel liberal — touting his support for the Jewish state but signing onto the Gaza 54 letter, headlining for CAIR, and refusing to break with the president on his offensive against the Jewish state. For precisely these reasons, J Street made him its top priority. Sestak lost in a tough race. Was Israel a factor? In a close race, it is hard to say it wasn’t. The question for liberal Democrats is this: why take on the baggage of J Street for such little help and so many headaches?

J Street’s other Senate endorsees lost as well (Robin Carnahan and Russ Feingold). In the House races, their endorsees lost in 11 races. Shoe-in Democrats won in seven races that were not in doubt. However, once ECI targeted the NJ-12, that safe Dem seat became competitive, with Democratic Rep. Rush Holt eventually winning by seven points. Several races are still outstanding.

The election demonstrated two things. First, J Street is a weight around the necks of its selected candidates. Second, the voters, Jewish and not, heard more about Israel than in an ordinary midterm and dumped some of the worst Israel-bashers in the House, including Mary Jo Kilroy and Kathy Dahlkemper. The takeaway: voters remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel, and should candidates want to avoid the impression that they are not, they’d do well to steer clear of the foreign-funded J Street.

We have seen, to the chagrin of the left, more attention in an off-year election on Israel than we get in most presidential races. The Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Coalition have reasons to crow. ECI made Joe Sestak its top priority, featured him in its debut ad, and remained a thorn in his side throughout the race. The RJC spent an unprecedented amount of money on the race. These groups didn’t target Joe Sestak by accident or pick an easy race. Sestak was the quintessential faux pro-Israel liberal — touting his support for the Jewish state but signing onto the Gaza 54 letter, headlining for CAIR, and refusing to break with the president on his offensive against the Jewish state. For precisely these reasons, J Street made him its top priority. Sestak lost in a tough race. Was Israel a factor? In a close race, it is hard to say it wasn’t. The question for liberal Democrats is this: why take on the baggage of J Street for such little help and so many headaches?

J Street’s other Senate endorsees lost as well (Robin Carnahan and Russ Feingold). In the House races, their endorsees lost in 11 races. Shoe-in Democrats won in seven races that were not in doubt. However, once ECI targeted the NJ-12, that safe Dem seat became competitive, with Democratic Rep. Rush Holt eventually winning by seven points. Several races are still outstanding.

The election demonstrated two things. First, J Street is a weight around the necks of its selected candidates. Second, the voters, Jewish and not, heard more about Israel than in an ordinary midterm and dumped some of the worst Israel-bashers in the House, including Mary Jo Kilroy and Kathy Dahlkemper. The takeaway: voters remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel, and should candidates want to avoid the impression that they are not, they’d do well to steer clear of the foreign-funded J Street.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.’” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

Bill Clinton’s main task is getting people to drop out of Senate races. “Charlie Crist personally called a top adviser to Bill Clinton and asked if the former president would discuss with Kendrick Meek the possibility of dropping out of the Florida Senate race, according to a source close to Clinton.”

The Democrats’ main problem: their side is depressed, and their opponents are fired up. “The latest absentee ballot statistics released this afternoon by the state of Pennsylvania show a strong Republican tilt in the Keystone State, a bad sign for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. According to the secretary of state’s office, 53,226 absentee ballots have been returned by registered Republicans in Pennsylvania compared with 37,631 by registered Democrats.”

The Dems’ main enemy has been their own agenda. “Regardless of whether the stimulus bill has helped the economy, or even prevented further losses, voters don’t believe the mammoth spending and tax cut bill has helped. And because no House Republicans voted for the bill, the perceived failure is wholly owned by Democrats. But a failed stimulus may have been forgivable, if Democrats had done something else to turn around the jobs picture. Instead, the party moved on to cap and trade and health care. … The party sealed its fate when Democrats cast a Sunday vote to pass health care reform, effectively alienating seniors and male voters. In the end, the 111th Congress has been one of the most effective in recent history. That efficiency, and their accomplishments, will cost them seats.”

Republicans’ main lesson from 2010 should be about candidate selection. Or, as Bill Kristol observed, it “would be nice to have Delaware.”

J Street’s main activity is whining now. Too much partisanship on Israel! Sort of odd for a group that spends its time (when not running interference for Richard Goldstone) attacking AIPAC and conservative pro-Israel supporters. Funny, though its policy director can’t manage to explain what’s wrong with “the Republican Jewish Coalition’s ad against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, claiming that she ‘remained silent as the Obama administration pressured Israel and supported Israel’s enemies.’” B0xer hasn’t exactly stood up to the administration on anything, let alone Israel.

The Dems’ main mantra – not Bush! — is problematic. A new poll by Democrat Doug Schoen finds that by a 48-to-43 percent margin, voters think George W. Bush was a better president than Obama. (Umm, Jeb, are you listening?) Nothing like Obama to make the country appreciate his predecessor(s).

The main takeaway from Charlie Cook (subscription required): the House Dems are toast. “It’s now clear that this is largest House playing field since 1994 and Democrats’ losses may well exceed the 52 seats they lost that year. … Democrats can’t blame their losses on money. Democratic messages simply aren’t staving off GOP candidates. Democrats’ strategy of endlessly exploiting opponents’ personal baggage has failed to disqualify Republicans like retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West. … Democratic attempts to portray GOP foes as proponents of three different third rails — outsourcing, the Fair Tax, and Social Security privatization — have had limited success in isolated cases, but have likewise failed to salvage races across the board.”

The White House’s main dilemma: where can Obama do more good than harm? “They could send him to Wisconsin, but the Senate seat appeared to be slipping away despite a recent presidential visit. Maybe Colorado? The Senate contest there was much closer, but it wasn’t clear – given the state’s changing political sentiments – whether a visit by Obama would help. Washington, California and Nevada were out, given that he had just campaigned out West. The advisers easily eliminated West Virginia and Kentucky, two states that were hostile to Obama in the presidential race and have grown even more so.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.’”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.’”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

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Sestak Pounded on Foreign Policy

Depending on which poll you like, the Pennsylvania Senate race is either very close or not. But what is certain is that foreign policy is playing a more prominent role in this race than in just about any other contest.

Joe Sestak is being hit by the Republican Jewish Coalition for his support for KSM’s civilian trial. Meanwhile, the Emergency Committee for Israel is ramping up, having launched a new PAC. And Sestak is again front and center in the PAC’s debut ad, hitting him for keynoting for CAIR, signing the Gaza 54 letter, and refusing to sign a bipartisan letter in support of Israel.

So where are Sestak’s J Street backers? Well, it might be a bit dicey for the George Soros front group to go up on the air, especially with Obama hammering away at mysterious foreign money. It is telling that in the final two weeks of the campaign, Sestak’s extremism on Israel and foreign policy more generally remain a millstone around his neck. Once more we see that a J Street endorsement, or more specifically clinging to the J Street line, is about the worst thing to happen to a liberal candidate. Well, that and having Obama in the White House.

Depending on which poll you like, the Pennsylvania Senate race is either very close or not. But what is certain is that foreign policy is playing a more prominent role in this race than in just about any other contest.

Joe Sestak is being hit by the Republican Jewish Coalition for his support for KSM’s civilian trial. Meanwhile, the Emergency Committee for Israel is ramping up, having launched a new PAC. And Sestak is again front and center in the PAC’s debut ad, hitting him for keynoting for CAIR, signing the Gaza 54 letter, and refusing to sign a bipartisan letter in support of Israel.

So where are Sestak’s J Street backers? Well, it might be a bit dicey for the George Soros front group to go up on the air, especially with Obama hammering away at mysterious foreign money. It is telling that in the final two weeks of the campaign, Sestak’s extremism on Israel and foreign policy more generally remain a millstone around his neck. Once more we see that a J Street endorsement, or more specifically clinging to the J Street line, is about the worst thing to happen to a liberal candidate. Well, that and having Obama in the White House.

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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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Bipartisan on Israel Means Accountability, Not Silence

The uproar over the efforts of the new Emergency Committee for Israel to highlight the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is getting nasty. Sestak and his supporters are hoping to manufacture a backlash against the congressman’s critics that will not only change the subject from his record but will also cause Pennsylvania Jews to rally around the Democrats as the victims of what they are calling a sleazy smear campaign that is wrongly politicizing the issue of support for Israel.

The notion that the Republicans are trying to politicize Israel played a part in the previous two election cycles, during which large-scale efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to raise the issue of left-wing disaffection from Israel were treated with similar scorn. In 2006 and 2008, Republican ads highlighted the anti-Israel records of various prominent Democrats, such as Jimmy Carter, and left-wing activist groups, such as Moveon.org. As with the reaction to the ECI campaign, those comments seemed to center less on complaints about the content of the ads than on the premise that judging a Democratic candidate on his stand on Israel was itself illegitimate. They argued then, as they do now, that any effort that uses Israel as a wedge issue turns it into a political football and that this process undermines the broad coalition that has made the U.S.-Israel alliance a fact of American political life.

But this is a false argument that has more to do with the needs of partisanship than it does with maintaining a pro-Israel consensus. What the Democrats want is not more civility but rather to remove Israel from political debate. Given their existing advantage among Jewish voters, who are already overwhelmingly Democratic, this would certainly be to their advantage — especially because the greatest current threat to the pro-Israel consensus is the rising tide of hostility to Jewish self-defense and Zionism on the political left. But in doing so, Democrats are effectively relieving our politicians of any accountability on Middle East issues.

If we can’t judge politicians like Sestak on their positions concerning Israel and related issues, then it is the Democratic argument that Israel is off-limits for discussion — and not the anti-Sestak or Republican Jewish Coalition ads — that signals the end of the pro-Israel consensus. If a member of Congress can, with impunity, speak at a CAIR fundraiser without confronting that group over its origins and positions, or if he can sign letters aimed at heightening pressure on Israel and undermining its right of self-defense, then advocacy groups might as well close up shop; no one will have any reason to believe that the pro-Israel community means what it says when it seeks — as any group in a democracy will do — to support its friends and oppose its foes.

So long as the parties and candidates are actively competing for pro-Israel votes — and one suspects that there are more Christian pro-Israel votes in play here than Jewish ones because for many of the latter, partisan loyalty trumps their affection for Zionism — then we have reason to believe that the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is safe. That means that both Democrats and Republicans must confront members of their party who are unsupportive or lukewarm toward Israel instead of giving them blanket immunity on the issue.

It is certainly legitimate for Sestak to spin his record or to argue that we must judge him by other things he has done in an attempt to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. But it is not legitimate for Sestak or any Democrat — or any Republican, for that matter — to say that their record on Israel is off-limits for discussion.

The uproar over the efforts of the new Emergency Committee for Israel to highlight the record of Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, is getting nasty. Sestak and his supporters are hoping to manufacture a backlash against the congressman’s critics that will not only change the subject from his record but will also cause Pennsylvania Jews to rally around the Democrats as the victims of what they are calling a sleazy smear campaign that is wrongly politicizing the issue of support for Israel.

The notion that the Republicans are trying to politicize Israel played a part in the previous two election cycles, during which large-scale efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to raise the issue of left-wing disaffection from Israel were treated with similar scorn. In 2006 and 2008, Republican ads highlighted the anti-Israel records of various prominent Democrats, such as Jimmy Carter, and left-wing activist groups, such as Moveon.org. As with the reaction to the ECI campaign, those comments seemed to center less on complaints about the content of the ads than on the premise that judging a Democratic candidate on his stand on Israel was itself illegitimate. They argued then, as they do now, that any effort that uses Israel as a wedge issue turns it into a political football and that this process undermines the broad coalition that has made the U.S.-Israel alliance a fact of American political life.

But this is a false argument that has more to do with the needs of partisanship than it does with maintaining a pro-Israel consensus. What the Democrats want is not more civility but rather to remove Israel from political debate. Given their existing advantage among Jewish voters, who are already overwhelmingly Democratic, this would certainly be to their advantage — especially because the greatest current threat to the pro-Israel consensus is the rising tide of hostility to Jewish self-defense and Zionism on the political left. But in doing so, Democrats are effectively relieving our politicians of any accountability on Middle East issues.

If we can’t judge politicians like Sestak on their positions concerning Israel and related issues, then it is the Democratic argument that Israel is off-limits for discussion — and not the anti-Sestak or Republican Jewish Coalition ads — that signals the end of the pro-Israel consensus. If a member of Congress can, with impunity, speak at a CAIR fundraiser without confronting that group over its origins and positions, or if he can sign letters aimed at heightening pressure on Israel and undermining its right of self-defense, then advocacy groups might as well close up shop; no one will have any reason to believe that the pro-Israel community means what it says when it seeks — as any group in a democracy will do — to support its friends and oppose its foes.

So long as the parties and candidates are actively competing for pro-Israel votes — and one suspects that there are more Christian pro-Israel votes in play here than Jewish ones because for many of the latter, partisan loyalty trumps their affection for Zionism — then we have reason to believe that the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is safe. That means that both Democrats and Republicans must confront members of their party who are unsupportive or lukewarm toward Israel instead of giving them blanket immunity on the issue.

It is certainly legitimate for Sestak to spin his record or to argue that we must judge him by other things he has done in an attempt to prove his pro-Israel bona fides. But it is not legitimate for Sestak or any Democrat — or any Republican, for that matter — to say that their record on Israel is off-limits for discussion.

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RE: The Fallout

Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has released a blistering critique of the Obama anti-Israel gambit:

To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process. …

While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process. …

Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security.

Minority Leader John Boehner, embellishing on a brief response over the weekend has weighed in as well:

The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally. The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office:  while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies. If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts.  House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made.

These statements are significant in that they put the Republican Congressional leadership squarely on the side of Israel supporters, including AIPAC and the ADL, which have objected strenuously to the misplaced priorities and bizarrely hostile treatment shown to our ally Israel. The focus will now be on the Democrats: do they defend the adminsitration or challenge it to clean up the mess made over the last few days?

It is not a good thing for support for Israel to break down on party lines. That has not been the case historically. As noted earlier, in 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of  intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has released a blistering critique of the Obama anti-Israel gambit:

To say that I am deeply concerned with the irresponsible comments that the White House, Vice President, and the Secretary of State have made against Israel is an understatement. In an effort to ingratiate our country with the Arab world, this Administration has shown a troubling eagerness to undercut our allies and friends. Israel has always been committed to the peace process, including advocating for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians, in effort to bring this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Government continues to insist on indirect talks and slowing down the process. …

While it condemns Israel, the Administration continues to ignore a host of Palestinian provocations that undermine prospects for peace in the region. Where is the outrage when top Fatah officials call for riots on the Temple Mount? Why does the Palestinian Authority get a pass when it holds a ceremony glorifying the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history? Surely, the Administration’s double standard has set back the peace process. …

Israel continues to be a world leader in the fight against terrorism and speak out against the prospects of a nuclear Iran. For this Administration to treat our special relationship with Israel, one of our closest and most strategic Democratic allies, in this fashion is beyond irresponsible and jeopardizes America’s national security.

Minority Leader John Boehner, embellishing on a brief response over the weekend has weighed in as well:

The Administration’s decision to escalate its rhetoric following Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel is not merely irresponsible, it is an affront to the values and foundation of our long-term relationship with a close friend and ally. The Administration has demonstrated a repeated pattern since it took office:  while it makes concessions to countries acting contrary to U.S. national interests, it ignores or snubs the commitments, shared values and sacrifices of many of our country’s best allies. If the Administration wants to work toward resolving the conflict in the Middle East, it should focus its efforts on Iran’s behavior, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its state-sponsorship of terrorism, its crushing of domestic democratic forces, and the impact its behavior is having, not just on Israel, but also on the calculations of other countries in the region as well as on the credibility of international nonproliferation efforts.  House Republicans remain committed to our long-standing bilateral friendship with Israel, as well as to the commitments this country has made.

These statements are significant in that they put the Republican Congressional leadership squarely on the side of Israel supporters, including AIPAC and the ADL, which have objected strenuously to the misplaced priorities and bizarrely hostile treatment shown to our ally Israel. The focus will now be on the Democrats: do they defend the adminsitration or challenge it to clean up the mess made over the last few days?

It is not a good thing for support for Israel to break down on party lines. That has not been the case historically. As noted earlier, in 1991, three founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition — Max Fisher, George Klein, and Dick Fox — penned a letter to then President George H.W. Bush strongly protesting the cutoff of loan guarantees as a lever to get (yes, nearly two decades and not much has changed) Israel to knuckle under at the bargaining table (then it was Madrid). It is the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and in the United States at large which has been critical to the maintainence of a robust and warm alliance between the two countries. That it is fraying now, when the most critical national-security threat to both (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) looms large, is especially troubling. And that, in the statements from pro-Israel Republicans, AIPAC, the ADL, and others, is what the administration is being asked to focus on. But then, they have no solution or game plan — it seems — on Iran. So beating up on Israel passes the time and excuses, in their own mind, the inactivity on that most critical issue.

A bipartisan coalition in support of Israel, in which stated principles trump partisan loyalty and political convenience, has been the cornerstone of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We are reminded now that for a president to enthusiastically lead, rather than decimate, that coalition is essential. What’s indispensible is a U.S.president who does more than mouth platitudes about our enduring relationship with the Jewish state. What is needed is a president who does not adopt the rhetoric and the bargaining posture of  intransigent Palestinians waiting for the U.S. to deliver Israel on a platter. Can our relationship survive without such a president? We are regrettably going to find out.

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The Fallout

The Republican Jewish Coalition, not unexpectedly, issued a lengthy statement blasting  the administration’s handling of the Jerusalem housing situation. It takes the Obami to task for “harsh and intentionally undiplomatic language to exacerbate tensions with our ally Israel in the wake of Vice President Biden’s visit there. The strident and unwarranted escalation of tension, which has turned a minor diplomatic embarrassment into a major international incident, has raised serious concerns about the administration’s Israel policy from a variety of mainstream voices.”

The more interesting question is where the president’s political allies will be on this. The National Democratic Jewish Council has been mute. (Recall that in the 1991, when George H.W. Bush cut off loan guarantees, prominent Republicans voiced opposition and introduced legislation to continue the guarantees.) Rep. Shelley Berkley has issued a robust condemnation. And over the weekend, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman had this to say at an appearance in Palm Beach:

“In every administration,” said Lieberman, “there are times when the US-Israeli relationship is not what it should be. But the guarantor of that relationship is the bipartisan, pro-Israel majority in Congress.

“It was a dust-up, a misunderstanding. (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has apologized, and the timing was unfortunate. But the second round of criticism is unproductive. I make one appeal – sometimes silence really is golden.

“Our enemies are common; let’s not let a mistake grow into a divisive dispute between members of the same family.”

In a brief private interview earlier, Lieberman expanded on his let-bygones-be-bygones point of view, saying, “Nothing good is going to happen in the Mideast without both the United States and Israel working together. That’s what we need to do, and the sooner the better.”

It will be interesting to see which, if any, Democrats put principle above party loyalty on this one. It would be better for all concerned if the administration retreated from its frenzied offensive, resumed the normal dialogue one has with a valued ally, and did not put further strain on its Democratic allies here at home, who, as John pointed out, have enough troubles this election year. That might be further evidence of just how harebrained was the gambit to begin with. But the first rule of politics is that when you’ve dug a hole, stop digging. The administration would be wise to listen to AIPAC, Lieberman, and Berkley, not to mention Republican critics, and figure out how to repair the damage wrought over the last few days.

UPDATE: Two other prominent Republicans have weighed in, both emphasizing the administration’s skewed priorities. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement:

Israel is an indispensable ally and friend of the United States. U.S. condemnations of Israel and threats regarding our bilateral relationship undermine both our allies and the peace process, while encouraging the enemies of America and Israel alike. I am also deeply concerned about the Administration’s softer approaches towards the Palestinian Authority, Syria, and Iran, which are being carried out in conjunction with hard-line tactics against our key democratic ally, Israel. Our nation’s security cannot afford a foreign policy which isolates our allies and moves towards appeasing enemies of the U.S.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., added this:

It’s hard to see how spending a weekend condemning Israel for a zoning decision in its capital city amounts to a positive step towards peace. Rather than launching verbal attacks on our staunch ally and friend, it would be far more worthwhile for this Administration to expend the effort planning for the transfer of our embassy to Jerusalem and tackling the growing Iranian nuclear threat.

The Republican Jewish Coalition, not unexpectedly, issued a lengthy statement blasting  the administration’s handling of the Jerusalem housing situation. It takes the Obami to task for “harsh and intentionally undiplomatic language to exacerbate tensions with our ally Israel in the wake of Vice President Biden’s visit there. The strident and unwarranted escalation of tension, which has turned a minor diplomatic embarrassment into a major international incident, has raised serious concerns about the administration’s Israel policy from a variety of mainstream voices.”

The more interesting question is where the president’s political allies will be on this. The National Democratic Jewish Council has been mute. (Recall that in the 1991, when George H.W. Bush cut off loan guarantees, prominent Republicans voiced opposition and introduced legislation to continue the guarantees.) Rep. Shelley Berkley has issued a robust condemnation. And over the weekend, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman had this to say at an appearance in Palm Beach:

“In every administration,” said Lieberman, “there are times when the US-Israeli relationship is not what it should be. But the guarantor of that relationship is the bipartisan, pro-Israel majority in Congress.

“It was a dust-up, a misunderstanding. (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has apologized, and the timing was unfortunate. But the second round of criticism is unproductive. I make one appeal – sometimes silence really is golden.

“Our enemies are common; let’s not let a mistake grow into a divisive dispute between members of the same family.”

In a brief private interview earlier, Lieberman expanded on his let-bygones-be-bygones point of view, saying, “Nothing good is going to happen in the Mideast without both the United States and Israel working together. That’s what we need to do, and the sooner the better.”

It will be interesting to see which, if any, Democrats put principle above party loyalty on this one. It would be better for all concerned if the administration retreated from its frenzied offensive, resumed the normal dialogue one has with a valued ally, and did not put further strain on its Democratic allies here at home, who, as John pointed out, have enough troubles this election year. That might be further evidence of just how harebrained was the gambit to begin with. But the first rule of politics is that when you’ve dug a hole, stop digging. The administration would be wise to listen to AIPAC, Lieberman, and Berkley, not to mention Republican critics, and figure out how to repair the damage wrought over the last few days.

UPDATE: Two other prominent Republicans have weighed in, both emphasizing the administration’s skewed priorities. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released a statement:

Israel is an indispensable ally and friend of the United States. U.S. condemnations of Israel and threats regarding our bilateral relationship undermine both our allies and the peace process, while encouraging the enemies of America and Israel alike. I am also deeply concerned about the Administration’s softer approaches towards the Palestinian Authority, Syria, and Iran, which are being carried out in conjunction with hard-line tactics against our key democratic ally, Israel. Our nation’s security cannot afford a foreign policy which isolates our allies and moves towards appeasing enemies of the U.S.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., added this:

It’s hard to see how spending a weekend condemning Israel for a zoning decision in its capital city amounts to a positive step towards peace. Rather than launching verbal attacks on our staunch ally and friend, it would be far more worthwhile for this Administration to expend the effort planning for the transfer of our embassy to Jerusalem and tackling the growing Iranian nuclear threat.

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RE: Campbell’s Al-Arian’s Letter Surfaces

Democrats have been quiet as the controversy swirls over Tom Campbell and his record on Israel and associations with Islamic extremists. They are perhaps biding their time to attack in the general election. If Campbell is to be the nominee, there is no use unloading now. But Ira N. Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council has weighed in, telling me via email:

This past weekend former Congressman Tom Campbell complained he was being attacked as an anti-Semite. Despite Campbell’s protestation this is not an issue of anti-Semitism. Campbell simply does not have a great record of support for the U.S.-Israel relationship — his relationship with Sami al-Arian is just one manifestation of that record. For the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the 11th Commandment — thou shall not criticize another Republican — is more important than their ongoing claim that they are all about Israel’s security.

Now, the NJDC has not exactly been at the forefront of criticism over the Obami’s hostile Israel policy, nor did the group utter a harsh word about Obama’ s bestowing the Medal of Freedom on Mary Robinson. So the reluctance to criticize their own side runs both ways. That said, Matt Brooks of the RJC previously did declare that Campbell’s record is a legitimate one for California Republicans to examine. (A request for comment from Brooks is outstanding.)

What is key here is that should he become the candidate in the general election, Campbell’s record, and his inconsistent explanations of that record, would be fair game. If California Republicans select him, they will need to prepare for an onslaught of legitimate criticism from both sides of the aisle.

Democrats have been quiet as the controversy swirls over Tom Campbell and his record on Israel and associations with Islamic extremists. They are perhaps biding their time to attack in the general election. If Campbell is to be the nominee, there is no use unloading now. But Ira N. Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council has weighed in, telling me via email:

This past weekend former Congressman Tom Campbell complained he was being attacked as an anti-Semite. Despite Campbell’s protestation this is not an issue of anti-Semitism. Campbell simply does not have a great record of support for the U.S.-Israel relationship — his relationship with Sami al-Arian is just one manifestation of that record. For the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the 11th Commandment — thou shall not criticize another Republican — is more important than their ongoing claim that they are all about Israel’s security.

Now, the NJDC has not exactly been at the forefront of criticism over the Obami’s hostile Israel policy, nor did the group utter a harsh word about Obama’ s bestowing the Medal of Freedom on Mary Robinson. So the reluctance to criticize their own side runs both ways. That said, Matt Brooks of the RJC previously did declare that Campbell’s record is a legitimate one for California Republicans to examine. (A request for comment from Brooks is outstanding.)

What is key here is that should he become the candidate in the general election, Campbell’s record, and his inconsistent explanations of that record, would be fair game. If California Republicans select him, they will need to prepare for an onslaught of legitimate criticism from both sides of the aisle.

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Tom Campbell’s Record and the GOP Senate Primary

The headline in the Jewish Journal on the California Republican Senate primary bizarrely reads: “Campbell’s Pro-Israel Stance Could Be His Undoing in Run for U.S. Senate.” Well, actually it’s his anti-Israel and pro-Muslim record and associations that are at issue. The article does accurately recount that Campbell’s record has reached the attention of the mainstream media and become a key issue in the race. It also provides a useful reminder that this is not only a matter of his Israel stance but also of Campbell’s record on terrorism and Muslim extremism:

Long before [Campbell donor Sami] Al-Arian went to jail for supporting terror, he was a professor at the University of South Florida (USF) and a political activist with high-level contacts among American politicians. His brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was imprisoned pending deportation based on secret evidence. Campbell took up the cause, visiting Al-Najjar in jail and introducing legislation critical of the government’s practice.

Campbell found himself on the side of Muslim-American civil rights groups. “The community that was most interested in this was the Muslim American community,” Campbell said in an interview last week, because 26 of the 28 people in jail under the secret evidence rule were Muslim. As a result of Campbell’s work, Al-Arian made campaign contributions totaling $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate run against Dianne Feinstein.

On May 23, 2000, Campbell testified before Congress in support of the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act,” mentioning Al-Najjar by name. Campbell shot down the government’s argument that barring secret evidence in immigration cases would lead to the release of terrorists, because the government would only need to forgo its use in immigration hearings. In his professorial style, Campbell compared the issue to other Constitutional abuses: “Why not give [suspected terrorists] truth serum, as long as they are in jail? If, like me, your stomach revolts at that thought, it must be because something in this Constitution prevents it.” That fall, Campbell lost the Senate election and left public office.

And, of course, Campbell then went on to write a letter on behalf of Al-Arian when the University of South Florida fired him. Campbell now claims it came at a time when he really was unaware of Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. (“‘A fellow law professor asked me as a matter of academic freedom to express concern about [Al-Arian],’ Campbell told The Jewish Journal. Campbell says that although he knew Al-Arian was an activist with controversial views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he had no idea Al-Arian actually was under criminal investigation by the FBI.”)

Well, as others have detailed, there was much in the public record at the time about an investigation into Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. Campbell’s defense of carelessness — “If I’m asked to write a letter on behalf of a professor, I should find out all I can about him” — doesn’t sound at all like the smart, methodical academic his boosters claim him to be.  The Journal quotes Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks: “If he’s offering a mea culpa, then I think that’s a signal to the Jewish community that he maybe would have done things differently. … It’s up to the voters to decide whether to accept his change of heart or not.”

Additionally, voters will have to consider what Campbell truly believes when it comes to anti-terrorism policies. He claims now to “strongly favor keeping Guantanamo and keeping enemy combatants under a prisoner-of-war status until the war on terror is over” and says he now actually would support the position that “enemy combatants and their supporters do not have Miranda rights or the right to confront the evidence against them.” That’s quite a change of heart for the former congressman who carried water for Al-Arian at a congressional hearing.

Voters will decide if Campbell has had a few too many changes of heart and whether his willingness to turn a blind eye toward the views of people like Israel-basher Alison Weir and Muslim extremists in the 1990s are disqualifying factors. Should he win the primary, his general-election opponent will certainly make the case that they are.

The headline in the Jewish Journal on the California Republican Senate primary bizarrely reads: “Campbell’s Pro-Israel Stance Could Be His Undoing in Run for U.S. Senate.” Well, actually it’s his anti-Israel and pro-Muslim record and associations that are at issue. The article does accurately recount that Campbell’s record has reached the attention of the mainstream media and become a key issue in the race. It also provides a useful reminder that this is not only a matter of his Israel stance but also of Campbell’s record on terrorism and Muslim extremism:

Long before [Campbell donor Sami] Al-Arian went to jail for supporting terror, he was a professor at the University of South Florida (USF) and a political activist with high-level contacts among American politicians. His brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was imprisoned pending deportation based on secret evidence. Campbell took up the cause, visiting Al-Najjar in jail and introducing legislation critical of the government’s practice.

Campbell found himself on the side of Muslim-American civil rights groups. “The community that was most interested in this was the Muslim American community,” Campbell said in an interview last week, because 26 of the 28 people in jail under the secret evidence rule were Muslim. As a result of Campbell’s work, Al-Arian made campaign contributions totaling $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate run against Dianne Feinstein.

On May 23, 2000, Campbell testified before Congress in support of the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act,” mentioning Al-Najjar by name. Campbell shot down the government’s argument that barring secret evidence in immigration cases would lead to the release of terrorists, because the government would only need to forgo its use in immigration hearings. In his professorial style, Campbell compared the issue to other Constitutional abuses: “Why not give [suspected terrorists] truth serum, as long as they are in jail? If, like me, your stomach revolts at that thought, it must be because something in this Constitution prevents it.” That fall, Campbell lost the Senate election and left public office.

And, of course, Campbell then went on to write a letter on behalf of Al-Arian when the University of South Florida fired him. Campbell now claims it came at a time when he really was unaware of Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. (“‘A fellow law professor asked me as a matter of academic freedom to express concern about [Al-Arian],’ Campbell told The Jewish Journal. Campbell says that although he knew Al-Arian was an activist with controversial views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he had no idea Al-Arian actually was under criminal investigation by the FBI.”)

Well, as others have detailed, there was much in the public record at the time about an investigation into Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. Campbell’s defense of carelessness — “If I’m asked to write a letter on behalf of a professor, I should find out all I can about him” — doesn’t sound at all like the smart, methodical academic his boosters claim him to be.  The Journal quotes Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks: “If he’s offering a mea culpa, then I think that’s a signal to the Jewish community that he maybe would have done things differently. … It’s up to the voters to decide whether to accept his change of heart or not.”

Additionally, voters will have to consider what Campbell truly believes when it comes to anti-terrorism policies. He claims now to “strongly favor keeping Guantanamo and keeping enemy combatants under a prisoner-of-war status until the war on terror is over” and says he now actually would support the position that “enemy combatants and their supporters do not have Miranda rights or the right to confront the evidence against them.” That’s quite a change of heart for the former congressman who carried water for Al-Arian at a congressional hearing.

Voters will decide if Campbell has had a few too many changes of heart and whether his willingness to turn a blind eye toward the views of people like Israel-basher Alison Weir and Muslim extremists in the 1990s are disqualifying factors. Should he win the primary, his general-election opponent will certainly make the case that they are.

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Gambling with Israeli Lives

On January 21, some 54 Democratic congressmen — many familiar names in the never-have-a-good-word-or-positive-vote-for-Israel club — sent a letter to the president imploring him to force the lifting of “the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt” on Gaza. (As Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition points out, it’s troubling to see Rep. Joe Sestak, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate, also on the signatory list.) Citing the great suffering of the people of Gaza, they call for the resumption of access to a long list of materials for the Hamas-controlled territory.

And what if in lifting the blockade once again bombs and armaments flow to Gaza? What about the ordeal of those trapped in hellish conditions thanks to the Hamas overlords who use the misery of children and the deaths of innocents to increase their bargaining power? The congressmen don’t say. Or perhaps the rearmament of Gaza-based terrorists is a price they are willing to pay in order to strut before the “international community.”

Now what’s interesting is the extent of the overlap between the pro-Gaza blockade lifters and the roster of J Street–supported congressmen. The following appear on both the Gaza letter and the recently released J Street list:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Rep. Michael Capuano (MA-08), Rep. Lois Capps (CA-23),  Rep. William Delahunt (MA-10),Rep. Donna Edwards (MD-04), Rep.  Keith Ellison (MN-05), Rep. Bob Filner (CA-51), Rep. Jim Himes (CT-04),Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12),  Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01), Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15),  Rep. Eric Massa (NY-29),  Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-04),Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-03), Rep. George Miller (CA-07), Rep. David Price (NC-04), Rep. Peter Welch (VT-At Large),   and Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03).

Inveterate Israel bashers who have not yet appeared on the J Street list but who did sign the Gaza letter include Reps. John Conyers, James Moran, and John Dingell.  No Republicans signed the Gaza letter.

Well, at least we know the sort of congressmen that J Street supports and the sort that are only too glad to accept J Street’s largesse. What is most disturbing, however, is that 54 Democrats are more than happy to gamble with the security and lives of Israelis to curry favor with … well, with whom? Are they, like Obama, under the impression that the “Muslim world” would be impressed? Or is their aim to bolster Hamas even further, hoping to blur the stark differences between the Hamas-induced squalor of Gaza and the emerging economy of the West Bank? It’s hard to say. The Obama administration, we hope, will ignore their pleas and direct its attention to the true cause of Gazans’ suffering — Hamas and the state sponsors of terrorism.

On January 21, some 54 Democratic congressmen — many familiar names in the never-have-a-good-word-or-positive-vote-for-Israel club — sent a letter to the president imploring him to force the lifting of “the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt” on Gaza. (As Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition points out, it’s troubling to see Rep. Joe Sestak, who is a candidate for U.S. Senate, also on the signatory list.) Citing the great suffering of the people of Gaza, they call for the resumption of access to a long list of materials for the Hamas-controlled territory.

And what if in lifting the blockade once again bombs and armaments flow to Gaza? What about the ordeal of those trapped in hellish conditions thanks to the Hamas overlords who use the misery of children and the deaths of innocents to increase their bargaining power? The congressmen don’t say. Or perhaps the rearmament of Gaza-based terrorists is a price they are willing to pay in order to strut before the “international community.”

Now what’s interesting is the extent of the overlap between the pro-Gaza blockade lifters and the roster of J Street–supported congressmen. The following appear on both the Gaza letter and the recently released J Street list:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Rep. Michael Capuano (MA-08), Rep. Lois Capps (CA-23),  Rep. William Delahunt (MA-10),Rep. Donna Edwards (MD-04), Rep.  Keith Ellison (MN-05), Rep. Bob Filner (CA-51), Rep. Jim Himes (CT-04),Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12),  Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01), Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15),  Rep. Eric Massa (NY-29),  Rep. Betty McCollum (MN-04),Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-03), Rep. George Miller (CA-07), Rep. David Price (NC-04), Rep. Peter Welch (VT-At Large),   and Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03).

Inveterate Israel bashers who have not yet appeared on the J Street list but who did sign the Gaza letter include Reps. John Conyers, James Moran, and John Dingell.  No Republicans signed the Gaza letter.

Well, at least we know the sort of congressmen that J Street supports and the sort that are only too glad to accept J Street’s largesse. What is most disturbing, however, is that 54 Democrats are more than happy to gamble with the security and lives of Israelis to curry favor with … well, with whom? Are they, like Obama, under the impression that the “Muslim world” would be impressed? Or is their aim to bolster Hamas even further, hoping to blur the stark differences between the Hamas-induced squalor of Gaza and the emerging economy of the West Bank? It’s hard to say. The Obama administration, we hope, will ignore their pleas and direct its attention to the true cause of Gazans’ suffering — Hamas and the state sponsors of terrorism.

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The Theme Is There

If you thought conservative columnists were nasty, read the latest from Maureen Dowd. Aside from the very funny lines, she offers some proof that the meme of Barack Obama as elitist appeaser has permeated even the liberal zeitgeist. It is too late for Democrats to rethink. But would they have been better with a plain-wrap, gun-toting middle American figure like Evan Bayh?

And just in case anyone might forget Iran or the war on terror for the day, the Republican Jewish Coalition in a new ad asks three questions of Obama on his visit to a synagogue in Florida:

In an interview, you called for a summit of Muslim nations, including Iran and Syria, but excluding Israel. Why? (Reuters, 1/30/08)

One of your top advisors, Tony McPeak, placed blame on Miami and NY Jews for the failure of the Middle East peace process, yet he remains in this role. Why? (The Oregonian, 3/27/03)

You were a board member of a foundation that funded, during your tenure, the Arab American Action Network, a pro-Palestinian organization. Why? (LA Times, 4/10/08)

So whether from the Right or the Left, the question is the same: what exactly is the New Diplomacy going to look like? And, as Noah Pollak suggests (although I disagree with him about who is winning this argument): what is Obama going to accomplish in all these high-level get-togethers with dictators? The ones we’ve been having at lower levels have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

If you thought conservative columnists were nasty, read the latest from Maureen Dowd. Aside from the very funny lines, she offers some proof that the meme of Barack Obama as elitist appeaser has permeated even the liberal zeitgeist. It is too late for Democrats to rethink. But would they have been better with a plain-wrap, gun-toting middle American figure like Evan Bayh?

And just in case anyone might forget Iran or the war on terror for the day, the Republican Jewish Coalition in a new ad asks three questions of Obama on his visit to a synagogue in Florida:

In an interview, you called for a summit of Muslim nations, including Iran and Syria, but excluding Israel. Why? (Reuters, 1/30/08)

One of your top advisors, Tony McPeak, placed blame on Miami and NY Jews for the failure of the Middle East peace process, yet he remains in this role. Why? (The Oregonian, 3/27/03)

You were a board member of a foundation that funded, during your tenure, the Arab American Action Network, a pro-Palestinian organization. Why? (LA Times, 4/10/08)

So whether from the Right or the Left, the question is the same: what exactly is the New Diplomacy going to look like? And, as Noah Pollak suggests (although I disagree with him about who is winning this argument): what is Obama going to accomplish in all these high-level get-togethers with dictators? The ones we’ve been having at lower levels have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

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Why So Upset?

Ed Gillespie, adviser to the President, had this to say at a press gaggle today:

We did not anticipate that it would be taken that way, because it’s kind of hard to take it that way if you look at the actual words of the President’s remarks, which are consistent with what he has said in the past relative to dealing with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda; relative to standing by Israel; relative to concerns about Iran developing the prospect of a nuclear weapon. And so there was really nothing new in the speech that anyone could point to that would indicate that. . . .

I would again encourage the media, whatever you want to do, it’s your editors — to ask them if maybe you might ask the Speaker of the House, or the leader of the Senate, or the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, what sentence that the President uttered, what words do you disagree with in those comments in the Knesset?

I agree: what precisely was wrong with what Bush said? Bush has been saying these “unprecedented” things about the perils of appeasement for years. So why did Obama get so upset? The Republican Jewish Coalition has an idea:

Why, when Barack Obama hears the word “appeasement,” does he think it applies to him? Why when it comes to standing with Israel is Barack Obama so defensive? It is Barack Obama’s promise to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that causes great nervousness in the Jewish community.

What’s hard for me to understand here is why Obama would meet with Ahmejinedad, but not Hamas. After all, if you’ll sit down with the don, why not break bread with his hitmen?

Ed Gillespie, adviser to the President, had this to say at a press gaggle today:

We did not anticipate that it would be taken that way, because it’s kind of hard to take it that way if you look at the actual words of the President’s remarks, which are consistent with what he has said in the past relative to dealing with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda; relative to standing by Israel; relative to concerns about Iran developing the prospect of a nuclear weapon. And so there was really nothing new in the speech that anyone could point to that would indicate that. . . .

I would again encourage the media, whatever you want to do, it’s your editors — to ask them if maybe you might ask the Speaker of the House, or the leader of the Senate, or the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, what sentence that the President uttered, what words do you disagree with in those comments in the Knesset?

I agree: what precisely was wrong with what Bush said? Bush has been saying these “unprecedented” things about the perils of appeasement for years. So why did Obama get so upset? The Republican Jewish Coalition has an idea:

Why, when Barack Obama hears the word “appeasement,” does he think it applies to him? Why when it comes to standing with Israel is Barack Obama so defensive? It is Barack Obama’s promise to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that causes great nervousness in the Jewish community.

What’s hard for me to understand here is why Obama would meet with Ahmejinedad, but not Hamas. After all, if you’ll sit down with the don, why not break bread with his hitmen?

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Aftermath of the Obama Interview on Israel

Yesterday’s Barack Obama interview caused quite a stir on the Right blogosphere. The New York Times not surprisingly finds the interview a smashing success for Obama, perhaps because the reporter leaves out any mention of his assertion that Hamas likely finds him “worldly,” or that he doesn’t seem much bothered by the Hamas endorsement.

I do agree, however, with those who criticize statements put out by Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor accusing Obama of calling Israel a “constant sore” and “constant wound.” From the context I think it is obvious that Obama was referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not Israel per se. Those and other comments were disturbing enough for reasons discussed here and elsewhere without willfully misinterpreting them. (Neither the RNC nor McCain’s campaign representatives indicated any inclination to join in these responses, apparently content for now to let Obama speak for himself.)

The Republican Jewish Coalition did have this to say:

Once again, Senator Obama demonstrates his questionable grasp of America’s foreign policy. Senator Obama manages to excuse the inexcusable actions of anti-American militant jihadists by putting the blame for their actions on America’s foreign policy. America stands with Israel because it is one of our strongest allies and the only democracy in the Middle East. Senator Obama naively believes that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will solve the global scourge of radical Islamic extremism. Yet Senator Obama never says how he will reign in Hamas’ daily onslaught on Israel or Iran’s scurrilous condemnations of Israel. Is it any wonder Hamas has endorsed him for president?”

That seems to get it right: what is most disturbing is his acceptance of the perspective that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of all of the region and “all of our foreign policy” problems and his blasé attitude toward Hamas. He does not seem the least bit concerned that a terrorist organization would endorse him. At the very least this should demonstrate how absurd is his claim that there is no difference between his position and John McCain’s on this topic.

Yesterday’s Barack Obama interview caused quite a stir on the Right blogosphere. The New York Times not surprisingly finds the interview a smashing success for Obama, perhaps because the reporter leaves out any mention of his assertion that Hamas likely finds him “worldly,” or that he doesn’t seem much bothered by the Hamas endorsement.

I do agree, however, with those who criticize statements put out by Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor accusing Obama of calling Israel a “constant sore” and “constant wound.” From the context I think it is obvious that Obama was referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not Israel per se. Those and other comments were disturbing enough for reasons discussed here and elsewhere without willfully misinterpreting them. (Neither the RNC nor McCain’s campaign representatives indicated any inclination to join in these responses, apparently content for now to let Obama speak for himself.)

The Republican Jewish Coalition did have this to say:

Once again, Senator Obama demonstrates his questionable grasp of America’s foreign policy. Senator Obama manages to excuse the inexcusable actions of anti-American militant jihadists by putting the blame for their actions on America’s foreign policy. America stands with Israel because it is one of our strongest allies and the only democracy in the Middle East. Senator Obama naively believes that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will solve the global scourge of radical Islamic extremism. Yet Senator Obama never says how he will reign in Hamas’ daily onslaught on Israel or Iran’s scurrilous condemnations of Israel. Is it any wonder Hamas has endorsed him for president?”

That seems to get it right: what is most disturbing is his acceptance of the perspective that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of all of the region and “all of our foreign policy” problems and his blasé attitude toward Hamas. He does not seem the least bit concerned that a terrorist organization would endorse him. At the very least this should demonstrate how absurd is his claim that there is no difference between his position and John McCain’s on this topic.

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