AIPAC fail: Goldberg leads, and Sen. Blumenthal climbs off the war bus

Israel/Palestine
on 33 Comments
Chris Hayes

Chris Hayes

The tide has clearly turned against the sanctions bill that would destroy the Iran deal. It seems only fair to give the most powerful Jewish journalist in the country credit for the change in the current–Jeffrey Goldberg, who has come out strongly against an attack–but let’s start with a true antiwar guy, Chris Hayes.

Last night the bespectacled MSNBC host shamed the 16 Democratic senators, and particularly Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, who are trying to “sabotage” the Obama presidency so as to please AIPAC. The Iran deal is likely “the single biggest foreign policy achievement” of the Obama administration, Hayes said, “there is no popular support” for war, and even the neoconservative Washington Post is against the sanctions bill.

Why are you trying to get us into another war and why are you sabotaging [the Obama] presidency to do that?… Why are 16 Democrats supporting this legislation?

Answer:

“[T]hey are afraid of the extremely powerful and influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee… They are making a political calculation that it is in their interest not to cross AIPAC and its allies because they are not a group that you want to get on the wrong side of… [But] if we end up in a war with Iran, the public will hate it, rightly, and it will be seen as a disaster.”

Hayes ran footage of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton voting to authorize war in Iraq and warned Gillibrand and Booker that it had been poison for their presidential ambitions.

So Chris (Hayes) goes where Chris (Matthews) fears to tread.

Here’s some more good news. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut climbed off the war bus. “He’s a sponsor of the legislation but now says there no need to vote!” Scott McConnell says, pointing to the Hill:

The Hill reports that Blumenthal said on Tuesday that he does not support a vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill as long as there’s progress on the Iran talks.
“Well I think the Iran sanctions bill is meant to strengthen the president, not in any way impede the ongoing negotiations, which should and hopefully will be successful,” Blumenthal told reporters Tuesday. “So as long as there’s progress, and as long as the progress is meaningful and visible, there may not need to be a vote.”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz has also backed Obama and brooked AIPAC (angering South Florida Jewish organizations). Yesterday she met privately at the White House with nearly 50 House Dems. I wonder how often the phrase, campaign contributions, came up? Huffington Post has the story, and reporters Ryan Grim and Jennifer Bendery repeatedly  say the A word, AIPAC:

Wasserman Schultz, typically a fierce ally of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which is pushing hard for new sanctions, warned that a push by Congress could unsettle the fragile nuclear negotiations involving the U.S., Iran and other nations.

Mara Sloan, a spokeswoman for Wasserman Schultz, didn’t address the White House meeting but reinforced that the congresswoman is firmly committed to preventing Iran’s nuclear weapon capability….

The sanctions push had appeared to be gaining momentum at the end of last month, but has been dealt brutal setbacks in recent days. The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today have all come out against new sanctions, as have influential commentators Ron Fournier, James Fallows and Jeffrey Goldberg, who is generally a strident Israel defender.

Maybe he’s a leader, maybe he’s a frontrunner. But Goldberg, the former Israeli corporal who led the march to war on Iraq based on bad intelligence, came out against the sanctions Tuesday:

“What it could do is move the U.S. closer to war with Iran and, crucially, make Iran appear — even to many of the U.S.’s allies — to be the victim of American intransigence, even aggression.”

Goldberg writes as a hawk on Iran and lover of Israel: “Israel’s existence is at stake.” (When are the media going to point out what force in our political life turned Democratic doves into hawks?) But then he turns up a realist card:

“[A military] strike might end in disaster…. [I]n some ways, an attack would justify Iran’s paranoia and pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Of course. If the country threatening you had nukes (Israel), you’d want them too.

Here’s the other reference to AIPAC from Grim and Bendery at Huffpo: 

[Steny] Hoyer is a close ally of AIPAC and regularly leads the AIPAC-funded House Democratic trip to Israel. But he’s in a tough position, as it is becoming increasingly evident that the bulk of House Democrats will oppose any resolution at all, no matter how watered down.

MJ Rosenberg says it’s a trend: “The media is waking up to the AIPAC crusade to get us into a war with Iran.” Rosenberg takes a shot at Chuck Schumer as an ignoramus on Jewish history (“I have spoken to Schumer going back to his House days and he is as ignorant as he indifferent”) then teases the dual-loyalty question.

[Dianne Feinstein] cares about this country. It shouldn’t be necessary to say that but it is. The 16 Democrats supporting the AIPAC bill do not. Their loyalties are split between America and campaign cash. And, in the case of many of them, not just on this issue.

Ali Gharib in Haaretz also says there’s a new mood in Washington. “If the U.S. Senate sanctions bill ends up triggering hostilities between the U.S. and Iran, there will be bad times ahead for the pro-Israel groups pushing sanctions– and their Democrat supporters.”

Whether or not Barack Obama and his Senate allies manage to block the Menendez-Kirk bill with a veto – and that’s a wide-open question – the vocal Democratic opposition alone signals a shift in Congress’s bipartisan pro-Israel consensus. The last major Kirk-Menendez sanctions bill to come to a roll call vote, after all, passed the upper chamber 100 to zero.

Any number of reasons could animate the Democratic split over the new Iran sanctions – the huge stakes (potentially war), or loyalty to the administration, for example – but the trend on Israel as a political issue is unmistakable. Israel issues becoming fodder for polarized, partisan debate has most notably manifested itself in divides among Democrats themselves.

That’s why I wonder about Jeffrey Goldberg’s opposition to the sanctions bill. He sees where things are headed and wants to be ahead of the curve. Of course, that’s always been his game, influence and access. But it’s good to see him sounding realist arguments rather than Netanyahu hysteria (as he did when he told us Israel would launch a war inside of a year, three years ago).

One more point about Chris Matthews. He’s on the Chris Christie story; and last night in a piece likening Christie’s trickiness to Nixon’s, he put down David Corn when Corn said that Christie is a piker next to Nixon. Richard Nixon launched a secret war against Cambodia, Corn pointed out wisely. Matthews cut that off, saying in essence: I hate to tell you, but even if the public had known about it, they wouldn’t have cared. I can’t understand why a liberal Democrat is making that kind of foolish and amoral argument, especially at a time when the Establishment is lurching again toward war.

33 Responses

  1. seafoid
    January 16, 2014, 11:28 am

    “[T]hey are afraid of the extremely powerful and influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee… They are making a political calculation that it is in their interest not to cross AIPAC and its allies because they are not a group that you want to get on the wrong side of… [But] if we end up in a war with Iran, the public will hate it, rightly, and it will be seen as a disaster.”

    Sounds very like the News of the World pre collapse

    This video is a must-see for anyone interested in what is going to happen to Zionism

    link to theguardian.com

    Overstretch and the point where the public turns against your cult are so tough

    • ritzl
      January 16, 2014, 11:00 pm

      I love how you radiate context out a few data points in every direction. It’s very useful in understanding dynamics. Cheers.

      • seafoid
        January 17, 2014, 1:49 am

        Cheers, Ritzl. Did you watch the video? I hadn’t seen it for a while but I watched it 3 times yesterday. It is so interesting. The point where the public turns against you and you lose the politicians and it becomes too expensive for the elite to back you so they throw you to the dogs. The show must go on but not necessarily with you. The Zionists must fear this more than anything. I think this is what drives all the crap about the unbreakable bond between America and Israel.

      • ritzl
        January 17, 2014, 9:28 am

        I did watch it. Thanks. The fact that that specific occurrence of drop-off is unrelated to this issue shows that Zionists are up against larger forces, not just specific argumentative pushback. Argument they handle well, but call it political entropy or the “moral arc” or something else, they must (or at least should) realize they can’t hold the current fiction together forever. They must see the diffusion/erosion of their tightly held position, and know what it means.

        All that would motivate me to get it right and make it right, and soon, but their moral and verbal inertia in the wrong direction may just be too much. Sad, in many ways. Not so sad in many others.

        Again, thanks.

      • seafoid
        January 17, 2014, 12:10 pm

        “unrelated to this issue”- it’s like a natural law about overstretch

        They can’t drop YESHA because of this
        link to wisegeek.com

        “The sunk cost fallacy is a logical fallacy
        or flawed argument for decision-making. In the sunk cost fallacy, prior investment is cited as a reason for pursuing a course of action. The term is usually used to describe persisting in a bad investment, on the grounds that otherwise, the time, money or effort invested in the project will be wasted anyway. The expression “throwing good money after bad” is sometimes used to describe this behavior.”

        They can’t admit the last 47 years were a complete waste of time, that they let down everyone in Israel, that the money is lost.
        At this stage it seems easier to hope it will all work out rather than reengineer the memes.

        It is very sad. They’ll really regret what they did to the Palestinians, what it cost them personally.

    • thetruthhurts
      January 17, 2014, 1:28 am

      “the media is waking up to the aipac crusade to get us into a war with iran”
      really?
      it’s, ah, january 2014. and they’re just waking up? now?
      ah, where have they apparently been the last decade or so?

      • thetruthhurts
        January 17, 2014, 1:32 am

        see “netanyahu sought to provoke iran war, drag US in” antiwar.com

  2. Tzombo
    January 16, 2014, 11:52 am

    Hmmm, seems to me this is not so much a case of AIPAC losing its grip as it is Israel-firsters not agreeing on the best course of action.

    • Citizen
      January 17, 2014, 5:04 am

      @Tzombo
      I tend to agree; maybe they feel more vulnerable now that the American public spoke out so hard against fumbling the football war into Syria?

  3. Krauss
    January 16, 2014, 12:07 pm

    Goldberg does not “lead”, Phil, Goldberg adapts. His commentary was the last nail in the coffin, but it did not change the direction of the mood. You recognize this later in your post so why the title?

    Goldberg’s best ability is to turn when the mood changes without changing his original position too much. His commentary should be read as an acknowledgment of defeat rather than his true opinion. We saw those in the 2010 article, hiding behind Israeli officials as they state what he wants to happen.

    But Goldberg will always choose access over anything else, as you note, so he merely reflects the mood, not leading it. The defining moment was actually when Obama called them out as warmongers and senators started to bristle. He finally called it as he saw it without niceties and AIPAC collapsed.

  4. pabelmont
    January 16, 2014, 12:49 pm

    I’d like to hope that the remaining war-mongers are actually politically smart enough not to intend to start a war but dumb enough to hope that a vote FOR increased sanctions will fail, while still maintaining their “creds” with AIPAC. After all, maybe Sen. Gillibrand fears she could be defeated for re-election by a Republican-UberZionist if the latter had all the AIPAC money (and more than all — we’re talking PUNISHMENT here) and she had none.

    When the Iraq war vote was held, I suppose all the pols were afraid of being labeled “chicken” by average voters and AIPAC was not in the news even if it was in the equation.

  5. Jeff Klein
    January 16, 2014, 1:08 pm

    Incredibly, Chris Matthews aired a report opposing the Menendez-Kirk bill (S.1881) blaming it all on “the Republicans” and not even mentioning Israel or AIPAC!

    “GOP cannot sabotage peace process with Iran”:
    link to on.msnbc.com

    • Citizen
      January 17, 2014, 5:08 am

      @ Jeff Klein
      Yeah I saw Matthews in action there; if memory serves he said he wouldn’t go into motive for the sabotage. Sure, because he would have had to put the blame on AIPAC, which doesn’t exist, don’t you know? Chris Hayes did though–don’t they work for the same boss?

  6. Jeff Klein
    January 16, 2014, 1:34 pm

    But a good sign of the times:

    Jon Stewart mocks Congressional opponents of Iran Negotiations and takes a shot at Ya’alon: Link via Haaretz –Priceless!

    link to haaretz.com

  7. Kathleen
    January 16, 2014, 1:52 pm

    PW ” It seems only fair to give the most powerful Jewish journalist in the country credit for the change in the current–Jeffrey Goldberg, who has come out strongly against an attack–but let’s start with a true antiwar guy, Chris Hayes.”

    Give Jeffrey Goldberg “credit for the change in the current” Total hooey. The push back against this warmongering legislation has come from many groups, individuals, journalist and national newspapers. Goldberg is only some kind of blip on selective people’s screens.

    Chris Hayes is doing great work on the Iran issue, even Chris Matthews has spoken out much more clearly against a military option against Iran for unsubstantiated claims.

    Chris Matthews is clearly on the “let’s take down Christie bus.” His claims that the American people need to know the “truth” is loud and clear when it comes to a lane on a bridge being shut down. But when it comes to that same loud and clear “truth telling” when it comes to Hillary Clinton and Benghazi Chris Matthews looks and sounds like Fox protecting Christie. In that Lara Logan 60 minutes special we get it that Davies was a fraud but there were two U.S. military officials on that program (I watched the day after it was aired on line) who clearly stated that they had contacted the Obama U.S. state dept numerous times asking for the security at Benghazi to be “beefed up.” There request were ignored. If Chris Matthews and others want all to come out about Christie debacle he should be asking for all witnesses involved with Benghazi to take the oath.

    Chris Matthews beat up the Clintons for years. He used to take pokes at Hillary constantly of course Bill too. After he did that special on Clinton it was as if he found his new best friend.

  8. Walker
    January 16, 2014, 2:32 pm

    Matthews cut that off, saying in essence: I hate to tell you, but even if the public had known about it, they wouldn’t have cared.

    Wow. The public did find out and the public did care. Nixon kept the bombing secret out of fear of public reaction. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, which required the President to get the assent of Congress before committing acts of war, as a direct result of the bombing of Cambodia.

    • Citizen
      January 17, 2014, 5:15 am

      @ Walker
      I just found out that not long before JFK was murdered he had already moved officially to take our troops out of Vietnam with a schedule. Johnson quietly ditched those plans. And morphed into a hard core war monger with one hand, while covering up the attack on the USS Liberty with the other hand.

  9. American
    January 16, 2014, 3:33 pm

    ‘“[T]hey are afraid of the extremely powerful and influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee… They are making a political calculation that it is in their interest not to cross AIPAC and its allies because they are not a group that you want to get on the wrong side of… [But] if we end up in a war with Iran, the public will hate it, rightly, and it will be seen as a disaster.”>>>

    Hayes really said that?!……good, thats coming closer.
    I’m sending him a thank you for ‘your gutsy truth’ note.

    • Ellen
      January 17, 2014, 12:36 pm

      Where is Abe Foxman when we need him?

      (That he hasn’t send out the dogs yet is telling.)

  10. American
    January 16, 2014, 3:49 pm

    Matthews…..5 million a year media whore, no better than the bought politicians.
    Goldberg……damage control, better the lobby and Israel lose the bomb Iran plan then risk a total wipeout revolt on Israel and their congressional minons by the US public over it and lose the next decade(s) of billions of US taxpayer aid and protection.

  11. Rusty Pipes
    January 16, 2014, 5:48 pm

    Change the title, Phil! Goldberg is a follower. When even the NYT writes an editorial splitting from AIPAC’s line, Goldberg is savvy enough to know which way the wind is blowing. In such a climate, does Reserve Corporal Goldberg really want to end up like Oren and Dershowitz?

  12. dbroncos
    January 16, 2014, 6:01 pm

    “I hate to tell you, but even if the public had known about it, they wouldn’t have cared. ”

    Wouldn’t have cared? What is Matthews smoking? Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia inspired the Students Strikes of 1970 involving more than 4 million students, resulting in the shutdown of more than 450 university, college and high school campuses accross the country. Some of the strikes were violent, including the lethal shootings at Kent State.

  13. CloakAndDagger
    January 16, 2014, 7:55 pm

    Oh it gets juicier!

    link to haaretz.com

    Ya’alon’s statements earlier this week caused a major flap with Washington, with Ya’alon offering a tepid apology and Kerry saying he wouldn’t let the comments derail his peace mission. However, an unnamed senior U.S. official has demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly reject the defense minister’s statements, but no such rejection has been forthcoming, leaving an atmosphere of tension between Washington and Jerusalem.

    Seems like a Mexican standoff. This can’t be good for the special relationship!

  14. Hostage
    January 16, 2014, 9:07 pm

    Of course. If the country threatening you had nukes (Israel), you’d want them too.

    And the Non-Proliferation Treaty makes allowances for exactly that situation:

    Article X
    1. Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.

    link to un.org

    • Kathleen
      January 16, 2014, 11:44 pm

      Thanks for reminding us Hostage. That Israel and the I lobby may want just that. Iran to withdrawal from the NPT. Then they can really go ape shit

      • talknic
        January 17, 2014, 12:23 am

        @Kathleen ” Israel and the I lobby may want just that. Iran to withdrawal from the NPT”

        I seriously doubt Iran is that naive

      • Kathleen
        January 17, 2014, 3:18 pm

        Clearly they are not that naive…but you can be sure Israel and the I lobby would love that

    • Citizen
      January 17, 2014, 5:18 am

      Has anybody seen anybody in the WH or Congress admit that Israel has nukes yet? Or are they still doing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

  15. Inanna
    January 16, 2014, 10:03 pm

    The nightflower has been exposed and its wilting.

    Everyone is finally seeing that the emperor has no clothes.

    I have no doubt that they’ll try to fight back. I have no doubt that the forces within our government pushing back against AIPAC are not friendly to any progressive causes. But I’m going to savor the delicious brew of schadenfreude at seeing just how easily exposed the lobby is and, having been exposed once, it will be much easier the next time and the next and the next.

  16. NickJOCW
    January 16, 2014, 11:06 pm

    This situation seems to mirror what we went through last year in the days before the Iran nuclear deal; Israel, AIPAC and some US legislators one side and the rest of the world on the other. Iran is set to initiate its obligations under that agreement on Sunday and next Wednesday the Syrian conference is due to start in Montreux with only Kerry currently hesitating over Iranian participation. Last year we learned that secret discussions had been going on between Washington and Tehran for some time before the nuclear agreement and there is no reason to imagine they suddenly stopped then or that the nuclear issue was the only subject on the table. My guess is we will see identifiable progress in the resolution of the Syrian problem reflecting credit on Iran’s role, which combined with IAEA confirmation of the implementation of their nuclear commitment will notch their rehabilitation up a further few points. It won’t be overnight but as it proceeds global attention will be freed to concentrate on the Palestine questions and the wide calls for a nuclear free ME. Could Obama be running a sting on Netanyahu? I wouldn’t put it past him.

    • brenda
      January 19, 2014, 10:23 am

      “Could Obama be running a sting on Netanyahu? I wouldn’t put it past him.”

      I think Obama can be Machiavellian. He is a politician after all. Bibi has gone out of his way to humiliate Obama personally and work against Obama politically. Of course he’s got Bibi in his sights. But Obama is smart enough and grown-up enough to get the job done first. For that he needs Netanyahu to bring in the peace treaty with Palestine. Unlikely Netanyahu will last long after that. That’s my take.

  17. Citizen
    January 17, 2014, 5:21 am

    I read Elizabeth Warren came out in public backing the interim Iran Deal. Has Hillary?

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