Commentary Magazine


Topic: Steve Rothman

Pascrell Stays Silent on Dual-Loyalty Slur

On Wednesday, I wondered whether Rep. Bill Pascrell would condemn a dual-loyalty charge one of his prominent supporters used against backers of Pascrell’s primary opponent, Rep. Steve Rothman. Yesterday, one of Pascrell’s surrogates, former Rep. Herb Klein, issued a statement dismissing the controversy as a “distraction.” But as the Washington Jewish Week reports, Pascrell’s campaign has declined to condemn the dual-loyalty slur directly.

Here’s a portion of Klein’s statement, via the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo:

“The ongoing ‘controversy’ being laid at Bill Pascrell’s door as a result of an op-ed authored by someone not affiliated with the Pascrell campaign has proven to be a distraction from the issues confronting the 9th Congressional District’s Democratic voters,” Klein said.

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On Wednesday, I wondered whether Rep. Bill Pascrell would condemn a dual-loyalty charge one of his prominent supporters used against backers of Pascrell’s primary opponent, Rep. Steve Rothman. Yesterday, one of Pascrell’s surrogates, former Rep. Herb Klein, issued a statement dismissing the controversy as a “distraction.” But as the Washington Jewish Week reports, Pascrell’s campaign has declined to condemn the dual-loyalty slur directly.

Here’s a portion of Klein’s statement, via the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo:

“The ongoing ‘controversy’ being laid at Bill Pascrell’s door as a result of an op-ed authored by someone not affiliated with the Pascrell campaign has proven to be a distraction from the issues confronting the 9th Congressional District’s Democratic voters,” Klein said.

The campaign’s response hasn’t satisfied Rep. Rothman. His spokesman Aaron Keyak issued the following statement:

Mr. Assaf is a supporter of and donor to Congressman Pascrell. We stand by our request that Congressman Pascrell disavow these attacks and ask his supporters to stop this harmful, dishonest, and bigoted rhetoric. Questioning Congressman Rothman’s loyalty to America is a serious charge. We are disappointed that Congressman Pascrell refuses to disavow his donor’s ridiculous and unfounded attack.

Pascrell has clashed with the pro-Israel community in the past, most recently when he signed onto the controversial “Gaza 54” letter, which was disproportionately critical of Israel.

Pascrell has also come under fire for facilitating Capitol Hill meetings for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that has refused to condemn terrorist groups like Hamas. In 2006, Pascrell praised the organization, saying, “I want to personally commend CAIR for its work on issues including civil liberties and opening dialogue with various communities in America.”

When I reached out to Pascrell’s spokesperson Sean Darcy today, he again refused to condemn the dual-loyalty charge, telling me the same thing the campaign reportedly told the Washington Jewish Week: “[Klein’s] statement speaks for itself.”

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The Nod and Smile Offensive

Earlier this week, Jen cited an AP report about President Obama’s Tuesday-evening meeting with 37 Jewish Democratic lawmakers, in which participants urged him to discuss publicly his commitment to Israel and to travel there. The interesting part of the report was what was missing from it: Obama’s response.

A Jerusalem Post report was slightly more informative. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) said Obama “didn’t respond directly.” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said, “I think he nodded and smiled.” In other words, he said nothing.

This was not the first time the suggestion to travel to Israel was made only to receive a non-response. Last July, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn took to the op-ed pages of the New York Times — in an article entitled Why Won’t Obama Talk to Israel? — and urged Obama to come to Israel. Benn noted that Obama had spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians, and Africans – but had not bothered to speak to Israelis: “The Arabs got the Cairo speech; we got silence.”

At the time, Joe Klein wrote that “Obama needs to explain his policy to the Israeli public” and was “already planning to make this sort of effort — Israeli television interviews, etc. — in the coming weeks.” Jeffrey Goldberg thought a visit “soon” was a good idea, but when he asked two “senior administration officials” when Obama might do it, “or at least speak at length about his positive vision for a secure Israel,” the officials were “non-committal.“ Neither the trip, nor the television interviews, nor the speech ever occurred.

Over the following year, the relationship with Israel worsened further — capped by the extraordinary public castigation over future Jewish housing in a Jewish area of the capital of the Jewish state, followed by the humiliation of the prime minister with an after-hours, side-door meeting with no pictures or joint statement. Administration officials are now engaged in endless “outreach events,” but the noteworthy point is that Obama has yet to speak publicly on the issue.

He held a private lunch with Elie Wiesel (no pictures or press) and a private meeting with Jewish Democrats, but there is still no trip to Israel, no interviews with Israeli media, no speech. He has also stopped holding prime-time press conferences at which questions on this and related foreign-policy issues could be asked. The charm offensive provides a kind of nod and smile to Jewish voters, but what Aluf Benn wrote a year ago remains true today — and the underlying issues remain as well.

Earlier this week, Jen cited an AP report about President Obama’s Tuesday-evening meeting with 37 Jewish Democratic lawmakers, in which participants urged him to discuss publicly his commitment to Israel and to travel there. The interesting part of the report was what was missing from it: Obama’s response.

A Jerusalem Post report was slightly more informative. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) said Obama “didn’t respond directly.” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said, “I think he nodded and smiled.” In other words, he said nothing.

This was not the first time the suggestion to travel to Israel was made only to receive a non-response. Last July, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn took to the op-ed pages of the New York Times — in an article entitled Why Won’t Obama Talk to Israel? — and urged Obama to come to Israel. Benn noted that Obama had spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians, and Africans – but had not bothered to speak to Israelis: “The Arabs got the Cairo speech; we got silence.”

At the time, Joe Klein wrote that “Obama needs to explain his policy to the Israeli public” and was “already planning to make this sort of effort — Israeli television interviews, etc. — in the coming weeks.” Jeffrey Goldberg thought a visit “soon” was a good idea, but when he asked two “senior administration officials” when Obama might do it, “or at least speak at length about his positive vision for a secure Israel,” the officials were “non-committal.“ Neither the trip, nor the television interviews, nor the speech ever occurred.

Over the following year, the relationship with Israel worsened further — capped by the extraordinary public castigation over future Jewish housing in a Jewish area of the capital of the Jewish state, followed by the humiliation of the prime minister with an after-hours, side-door meeting with no pictures or joint statement. Administration officials are now engaged in endless “outreach events,” but the noteworthy point is that Obama has yet to speak publicly on the issue.

He held a private lunch with Elie Wiesel (no pictures or press) and a private meeting with Jewish Democrats, but there is still no trip to Israel, no interviews with Israeli media, no speech. He has also stopped holding prime-time press conferences at which questions on this and related foreign-policy issues could be asked. The charm offensive provides a kind of nod and smile to Jewish voters, but what Aluf Benn wrote a year ago remains true today — and the underlying issues remain as well.

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