Another sign the lobby has bitten off more than it can chew. Congressmember Alan Grayson has taken a high profile position against a U.S. attack on Syria. In addition to making the cable television rounds, his office is running a petition at dontattacksyria.com that has already garnered over 60,000 signatures. The text of the petition reads:
“The Administration is considering intervening in the Syrian civil war. We oppose this. There’s no vital national security involved. We are not the world’s policeman, nor its judge and jury. Our own needs in America are great, and they come first. The death of civilians is always regrettable, and civil war is regrettable, but no Americans have been attacked, and no American allies have been attacked. The British Parliament understandably has voted not to join in any attack. Notably, defense contractor Raytheon’s stock is up 20% in the last 60 days. It seems that nobody wants US intervention in Syria except the military-industrial complex. I oppose US military intervention in Syria. Join me.”
Grayson was on Democracy Now! yesterday to discuss Syria and his efforts. Host Amy Goodman asked him directly about AIPAC’s role in the Congressional debate, and Grayson said the lobby is outflanked this time, by the people. Here’s the transcript:
Congressmember Grayson, I wanted to ask you about the role of AIPAC. There’s been this whole controversy now about a New York Times article. The Times is facing questioning this week after a passage on the influence of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, on the Syria discussion seemed to disappear from its reports. In an article that appeared in Monday’s newspaper, the Times quoted an unnamed Obama administration official calling AIPAC “the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” because, quote, “its allies in Congress have to be saying, ‘If the White House is not capable of enforcing this red line’ — against catastrophic use of chemical weapons–’we’re in trouble.’” That passage appeared to be missing from later editions of the story.
Well, The New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, addressed the concern, saying it had a mundane explanation. She wrote, quote, “On a moving story about President Obama and Syria, some information that appeared in a Sunday-to-Monday story was carried over to a new, Monday-to-Tuesday front page story. That new story was, appropriately, assigned a new URL, assuring [that] it would be archived separately. Once new information came along, a great deal of old information, including the Aipac quote, was replaced.”
But that issue of AIPAC’s role in lobbying congressmembers now and senators around a strike on Syria, can you talk about its presence in the House?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: Well, AIPAC has issued a statement saying that they’re in favor of an attack. And many other organizations have done the same, and many other organizations, even more organizations, have done a statement saying that they’re against it. But at this point it’s not relevant, because the public is engaged, the public is paying attention, the public is against this, and the public is adamantly against this. All these organizations sort of fall to the wayside when the public weighs in. There are now both Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have reported that their emails and letters and phone calls to their office are running more than a hundred to one against this. People are against it. They’re adamantly against it.
At our website that you mentioned, dontattacksyria.com, in almost no time we’ve attracted 35 signatures on our petition to the Congress and to the president, and we’re going to take those signatures and deliver them to the individual members of Congress, showing in some cases hundreds, if not thousands, of their own constituents are against this attack. So, any organization, like AIPAC or otherwise, cannot operate effectively in the environment that we’re in, where the public is speaking and speaking very loudly.
Interesting comments. It seems AIPAC works best undercover (or out of the light of day as Steven Rosen might put it), but can’t turn the tide in the face of overwhelming popular opinion.