This is hard to believe. MSNBC's coverage of New Hampshire began tonight with a five or six minute conversation about Sheldon Adelson's "dark money," as Rachel Maddow put it-- the $5 million injection to Gingrich's super PAC that has revived the former speaker's presidential race-- without the word Israel crossing anyone's lips.
Maddow called on investigative reporter Michael Isikoff to explain the money, and yet again Isikoff pulled the wool over his viewers' eyes about Sheldon Adelson's ends. Isikoff described Adelson as "a billionaire with his own economic interests-- a casino empire." He went on to speak of Adelson's passion against unions.
Maddow kept up the blackjack talk. She said that Adelson's "history, past interests" will become a defining factor in this campaign-- and that's casinos.
The conversation flowed into a righteous attack on "vulture capitalism" and billionaires.
Not till Chris Matthews came on a few minutes later did we get any inkling of Adelson's real interest. Thank god for Matthews, he got at the real motive behind this gift: foreign policy. Gingrich has "fluffed up Sheldon Adelson with a lot of fear talk about Ron Paul" and Paul's "isolationism," Matthews said. So Adelson will continue to cough the money up.
This has "nothing to do with theories of capitalism," Matthews said. Adelson is "afraid of the Middle East situation," and he's going to keep spending money.
As I say, you did not hear the word Israel in any of these immaculate perceptions. But good for Matthews for saying something about the emperor's lack of clothes.
For her part, Maddow has turned Adelson into a conventional liberal exhibit about campaign finance: the "quirks" of "truly motivated" billionaires are going to drive our political process, Adelson could decide to spend 100s of millions to defy the public will.
As I keep shouting, Adelson's main interest--Israel holding Jerusalem and the occupied territories--was an element of the 2000 presidential race, when he gave unregulated amounts to Republican committees, and Bush's foreign policy reflected Adelson's neoconservatism. It would be nice if the media would give Americans the chance to think about this.
Matthews’s analysis is the best answer to a reader’s questions: On what basis can anyone say that Adelson's game here is Israel when he might as well give his money to Mitt Romney? It would have the same effect. What's he gain by throwing $5 million away at Gingrich, which can only damage Romney?
The answer in a word is leverage on Romney. The Republican process is now a war over Romney’s policy positions; and the neoconservative fear is that he will be tugged left by Ron Paul's movement inside the party. So Adelson is applying a counter-weight by giving money to someone who is to Romney's right on Israel questions. Anything that brings down Ron Paul’s vote will advance neocon policymaking inside the Republican party.
Notice that Paul is working that leverage. He made nice to Romney lately, defending him yesterday on the Bain Capital criticism, and pretty much promising not to run as a third party candidate. Last night Al Sharpton expressed fear that Ron Paul would get to determine a President Romney Supreme Court pick.
In other words, the game now is how much influence Ron Paul will have.
A second aspect of the leverage game is Adelson being coy with his millions. Romney wants those millions for his campaign against Obama. But by giving a smallish-for-Adelson contribution to Gingrich (he had promised $20 million back in December, Politico tells us), Adelson is holding out. He knows that he who holds out longest has the most leverage. He may play this game with Romney for a while….