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Topic: Congressional Black Caucus

The Race Non Sequitur, Iran and Netanyahu

After two weeks of watching the debate over his proposed plans to speak to a joint session of Congress on Iran sanctions next month become increasingly bitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be thinking he has no choice but to give the speech. A “senior government official” told the Jerusalem Post today that the prime minister had no plans to back down and postpone the speech until after the Knesset elections later in March. Apparently, Netanyahu thinks waiting until later in the spring to speak would be too late. With reports surfacing that the president has sought to persuade the Congressional Black Caucus to boycott his speech, the willingness of the administration sink so low as to play the race card against Israel illustrates that it no longer matters how right Netanyahu might be. Though his message about the danger from Iran is one that Congress and the American public need to hear, what he and his advisors seem not to understand is that the politics of the controversy have outstripped its content.

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After two weeks of watching the debate over his proposed plans to speak to a joint session of Congress on Iran sanctions next month become increasingly bitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be thinking he has no choice but to give the speech. A “senior government official” told the Jerusalem Post today that the prime minister had no plans to back down and postpone the speech until after the Knesset elections later in March. Apparently, Netanyahu thinks waiting until later in the spring to speak would be too late. With reports surfacing that the president has sought to persuade the Congressional Black Caucus to boycott his speech, the willingness of the administration sink so low as to play the race card against Israel illustrates that it no longer matters how right Netanyahu might be. Though his message about the danger from Iran is one that Congress and the American public need to hear, what he and his advisors seem not to understand is that the politics of the controversy have outstripped its content.

The reports about the White House signaling the Black Caucus that the speech should be seen as a domestic political issue rather than one about a difference of opinion over foreign policy is particularly ominous. It was bad enough that Democrats construed the decision to accept the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner as a partisan intrusion into an American policy dispute. But if African-American politicians and even ordinary citizens are being told that Netanyahu’s appearance at a joint session is motivated out of disrespect to the first black president of the United States rather than a belief that the administration’s opposition to more sanctions on Iran is bad policy, then the problem Israel is facing is far worse than even some of the prime minister’s critics had thought.

At this point, the informal movement to boycott Netanyahu’s appearance is gaining the sort of momentum that gives it a life of its own. Republicans and Netanyahu’s supporters both here and in Israel may think most congressional Democrats are bluffing and some might be. But even a partial boycott would undo any good that the speech might have done in the first place.

Netanyahu needs to recall that the reason his May 2011 speech to Congress was such a triumph was that the cheers and the dozens of standing ovations he received were bipartisan. It was a humiliation for Obama, who never before and never since has been given such a reception in the Congress, because the thunderous applause demonstrated that the pro-Israel coalition was genuinely bipartisan. The cheers from both sides of the aisle were a sign that both congressional parties rejected Obama’s ambush of Netanyahu on that trip and backed the Israeli’s stand. Perhaps Netanyahu and his advisors believed they could replicate that triumph now when the stakes are even higher with the administration pursuing détente with Iran and seeking a deal that would allow it to become a nuclear threshold power. But with Democrats and blacks now perceiving the speech to be a partisan ploy, any chance of that is gone.

Let’s concede again that this situation is not so much the product of a Netanyahu blunder as it is of a cynical political strategy employed by the administration. There was no breach of protocol in the invitation, as we now know that Boehner’s office informed the White House of the plan before Netanyahu accepted it. Nor was this a matter of the Israelis favoring the GOP over the Democrats, as the Israeli government rightly understood that a majority of the president’s party supported more sanctions. Indeed, the bill Netanyahu favors is co-sponsored by as many Democrats as Republicans and Senator Robert Menendez has publicly and personally challenged the president on the issue without anyone accusing him of being against his own party or showing disrespect to the first African-American president. (In fact, it was Obama who showed disrespect to Menendez and other Democrats by speciously claiming that the only reason they opposed him on the issue was to please donors—a code word for supporters of Israel). Those who are piling on Netanyahu with such criticisms, like Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the head of the Reform movement, are saying more about their own partisan loyalties than telling us anything about Netanyahu.

Netanyahu deserves criticism for not anticipating that a speech during a congressional debate on the issue would be perceived as maladroit. But it is Obama who has politicized Israel and sought to make it a partisan issue, not Netanyahu or the GOP. Even worse, by injecting the non sequitur of race into this mess, Obama seems to be employing the sort of tactics we’d expect from his friend, race hustler Al Sharpton, not the leader of the free world. This is the worst sort of divisive politics that pits not only the two parties against each other but also two minority groups. Historically, most members of the Congressional Black Caucus have followed the example of Martin Luther King Jr. and been strong supporters of the State of Israel. Though many Democrats have drifted away from Israel in recent years, for Obama to play the race card in this way so as to buttress a policy that has nothing to do with the interests of African-Americans is disgraceful.

It is more than obvious that the smartest thing Netanyahu can do is to cease walking into the trap that Obama has laid for him. That this trap is to the president’s discredit, rather than that of Netanyahu, is irrelevant to the question of whether he should change his plans. The race non sequitur and the partisan issue are real even if they shouldn’t be. A veto-proof majority of both houses of Congress in favor of more pressure on Iran and against acceptance of it as a nuclear threshold power exists. Netanyahu needs to take himself out of the debate now so that majority can be re-assembled and that more sanctions can be passed.

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No Vote Fraud? Tell it to Rangel’s Opponent.

In the last year as Democrats have tried to oppose all efforts to ensure the integrity of the vote in the fall election, they have derided voter ID laws as not only racist in motivation but also unnecessary. Though the basic proposition that anyone who shows up at the polls ought to be able to prove they are who they say they are and are registered voters seems like common sense, liberals have claimed such measures are utterly superfluous because voter fraud is not a problem in the United States. And because there is no problem to be fixed, any effort that might stop those not qualified to vote from casting ballots is, they claim, rooted in prejudice and aimed at “suppressing” the minority vote. One would think that the long history of election fraud in this country which dates back to the colonial era and was a staple of machine politics in the 20th century would have caused Democrats to stop making such weak claims. But they are undaunted and have even gone so far as to assert that efforts to hold Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for his failures and stonewalling in the Fast and Furious scandal are evidence of the Republicans’ desire to get back at him for opposing voter ID laws.

But in case the Democrats needed a reminder about why voter integrity laws are necessary, they have just gotten one from a stalwart of the Congressional Black Caucus and a leading opponent of such measures. Charles Rangel’s “victory” in the Democratic primary in which he sought to ensure for himself a 22nd consecutive term in Congress from New York is being disputed by his opponent, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who claims what took place last week was a “phantom election” in which Board of Elections officials may have “hidden” votes. Ironically, Espaillat also claims that not only is the vote count in question but that Rangel’s forces may have suppressed the Hispanic vote by reassigning bilingual poll watchers and turning some voters away by requesting they identify themselves.

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In the last year as Democrats have tried to oppose all efforts to ensure the integrity of the vote in the fall election, they have derided voter ID laws as not only racist in motivation but also unnecessary. Though the basic proposition that anyone who shows up at the polls ought to be able to prove they are who they say they are and are registered voters seems like common sense, liberals have claimed such measures are utterly superfluous because voter fraud is not a problem in the United States. And because there is no problem to be fixed, any effort that might stop those not qualified to vote from casting ballots is, they claim, rooted in prejudice and aimed at “suppressing” the minority vote. One would think that the long history of election fraud in this country which dates back to the colonial era and was a staple of machine politics in the 20th century would have caused Democrats to stop making such weak claims. But they are undaunted and have even gone so far as to assert that efforts to hold Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for his failures and stonewalling in the Fast and Furious scandal are evidence of the Republicans’ desire to get back at him for opposing voter ID laws.

But in case the Democrats needed a reminder about why voter integrity laws are necessary, they have just gotten one from a stalwart of the Congressional Black Caucus and a leading opponent of such measures. Charles Rangel’s “victory” in the Democratic primary in which he sought to ensure for himself a 22nd consecutive term in Congress from New York is being disputed by his opponent, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who claims what took place last week was a “phantom election” in which Board of Elections officials may have “hidden” votes. Ironically, Espaillat also claims that not only is the vote count in question but that Rangel’s forces may have suppressed the Hispanic vote by reassigning bilingual poll watchers and turning some voters away by requesting they identify themselves.

That voter fraud and other shenanigans might have taken place in the district which stretches from Harlem to The Bronx will surprise no one familiar with the grand traditions of New York politics. Nor is there anything particularly innovative about the allies of an establishment figure like Rangel working within the system to make it more difficult for a challenger to take him on.

Given the way these things generally work in New York, we may never know whether Espaillat actually beat Rangel. Nor can we be sure whether the voters allegedly turned away at the polls were really ineligible (in which case Espaillat’s camp was trying to game the results). But what we do know is that wherever politicians and their friends are tempted to cheat, that is exactly what they will do. The stakes involved in such races are high, and anyone who assumes Rangel or any other entrenched officeholder will not stoop to twist, bend or otherwise mutilate the results in order to hang on knows nothing about American political history or politicians.

All of which is a reminder of why voter integrity measures are necessary. Moreover, the fact that Rangel’s allies were prepared to challenge the identity of potential votes for Espaillat not only shows why such measures are reasonable, it also illustrates why greater attention to voter fraud–no matter who might be doing it–is vital. That a race involving the senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus should prove this point isn’t just a form of poetic justice. It also shows just how transparently fraudulent the claims made by Democrats against voter ID laws have been.

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Congressional Black Caucus Plans Walk Out on Holder Vote

Democrats are trying their best to turn the Eric Holder contempt vote into a racial issue, and Politico reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is planning a walk out protest during the floor vote today:

The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during tomorrow’s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress.

“We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice,” the CBC members wrote in a copy of the letter obtained by Politico….

“Instead of focusing on job creation and other critical issues before this Congress, we have been asked to engage in a political stunt on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Our constituents elected us to do real work, not to engage in meaningless partisan activity,” they wrote.

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Democrats are trying their best to turn the Eric Holder contempt vote into a racial issue, and Politico reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is planning a walk out protest during the floor vote today:

The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during tomorrow’s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress.

“We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice,” the CBC members wrote in a copy of the letter obtained by Politico….

“Instead of focusing on job creation and other critical issues before this Congress, we have been asked to engage in a political stunt on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Our constituents elected us to do real work, not to engage in meaningless partisan activity,” they wrote.

The CBC, of course, would never engage in these sort of “political stunts” and “meaningless partisan activities.” Speaking of which, how many Republicans do you think will be at the CBC’s meaningful bipartisan press conference condemning the Eric Holder contempt vote? I’m going to go with “zero.” When even Sen. Scott “Independent Voice of Massachusetts” Brown is calling for Holder’s resignation, it seems safe to assume the GOP is sticking together on this one.

In fact, the only real bipartisanship we’re likely to see today will be on the side supporting the contempt vote. Fox News reports that at least 11 House Democrats are expected to break rank and join the GOP on this one, but others have speculated that number could be as high as 31.

It’s also interesting that House Democrats are suddenly complaining about “sideshows” after wasting months on the “war on women” nonsense. Criticizing House Republicans for focusing on political stunts isn’t likely to sway public opinion, particularly as the Fast and Furious investigation has bipartisan support, and Holder isn’t exactly a sympathetic party in this conflict.

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Congressional Black Caucus Sees “Good News” Even if Barron Wins

You would think the Congressional Black Caucus would at least have some minor quibbles with Charles Barron, the David Duke-endorsed congressional candidate who’s been denounced as “an anti-Israel, racist anti-Semite” by the National Jewish Democratic Council and criticized by legions of other Democrats. But while CBC is staying neutral on the race between Barron and Hakeem Jeffries, its chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver told Capital New York that he sees at least one bright side no matter which candidate wins:

“The good news is there is hardly any chance we won’t have a CBC member elected from that seat,” said Emmanuel Cleaver, a longtime congressman from Missouri who has chaired the caucus since 2010.

I asked him if he thought one of the candidates in the race might be better suited to be a new member of the CBC and serve in Congress. …

“We’re trying to stay out of it. None of us really know any of the candidates,” he said. “All we know is what we’ve been reading. Some of it is, you know, a little acidic. I was briefed yesterday, again, on this race, since I was coming up here. And we just made a decision that we were going to stay out of it.”

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You would think the Congressional Black Caucus would at least have some minor quibbles with Charles Barron, the David Duke-endorsed congressional candidate who’s been denounced as “an anti-Israel, racist anti-Semite” by the National Jewish Democratic Council and criticized by legions of other Democrats. But while CBC is staying neutral on the race between Barron and Hakeem Jeffries, its chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver told Capital New York that he sees at least one bright side no matter which candidate wins:

“The good news is there is hardly any chance we won’t have a CBC member elected from that seat,” said Emmanuel Cleaver, a longtime congressman from Missouri who has chaired the caucus since 2010.

I asked him if he thought one of the candidates in the race might be better suited to be a new member of the CBC and serve in Congress. …

“We’re trying to stay out of it. None of us really know any of the candidates,” he said. “All we know is what we’ve been reading. Some of it is, you know, a little acidic. I was briefed yesterday, again, on this race, since I was coming up here. And we just made a decision that we were going to stay out of it.”

Cleaver says some of what he’s been reading about the race has been “a little acidic.” Is he referring to Barron’s comparison of Gaza to a “death camp” and his rants about the “Jewish lobby”? If so, it’s unfortunate that Cleaver, a former civil rights leader, wouldn’t specify Barron by name. The CBC’s neutrality in the race is notable among national Democrats, who have been coming out against Barron in droves during the last week or so:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel; both of the state’s senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are just the latest Democratic heavyweights to throw their support behind Jeffries. It’s hard to tell if there’s a reason for them to be worried: There’s been no independent polling in the district, and Jeffries, a New York assemblyman, has raised $770,445 to Barron’s $113,640 — two-fifths of Barron’s total is from himself.

“It’s really become a race to watch, because it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen,” said Doug Muzzio, a political analyst and professor of public affairs at Baruch College, although he still thinks Jeffries will win. “Barron has been a prominent voice for the African-American community and has a lot of support, but the key question is do people think he’ll be effective in Washington?”

Tomorrow’s primary race will be watched closely around the country, and not just by Democratic politicians. The Emergency Committee for Israel has released a new ad educating voters about Barron’s history of hatemongering. There have been no independent polls showing Barron with a lead, and the Jeffries campaign maintains there’s no reason to believe Barron is surging. But Democrats have been growing exceedingly nervous the past week, which indicates that the race is very tight in internal polling.

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