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

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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?


“[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.

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