Jacob Heilbrunn covers the argument among Republicans over the Israel bona fides of Tom Campbell, the likely Republican nominee to take on Barbara Boxer. Note a few points: As the LA Times says, it’s all about Israel. This is a reflection of one thing, Jewish power in the American political process, at least in California and New York (and Chicago and D.C. too!). Note that David Frum is backing Campbell to a faretheewell despite considerable evidence that Campbell has a record of opposing the Israel lobby. I believe Frum is backing Campbell in precisely the way that Marty Peretz backed Obama. He’s the putative nominee. We have to claim him now. The worst thing is that he would get into office without Jewish support. (This is the effect of being a minority forever in western culture, and needing to study power.) Heilbrunn:
By all accounts, Campbell is the favorite to win the nomination against Carly Fiorina and former–State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. But as the Los Angeles Times recently observed, “the participants are stuck on one subject: Israel.” Crocodile tears abound: Fiorina claimed that she was “deeply troubled” by Campbell’s record. DeVore simply called Campbell “a friend to our foes.” They figure that maybe the brouhaha will damage Campbell with evangelical Christian voters. Meanwhile, former–Secretary of State George Shultz has vouched for Campbell’s Israel bona fides, calling him an “unwavering” supporter of the Jewish state.
According to the LA Times, it began when “Former California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said in an interview that when he called Fiorina manager Marty Wilson to tell Wilson he planned to endorse Campbell, Wilson replied, “Bruce, how can you do that? He’s an anti-Semite.” Wilson denies saying that.
But the fat was in the fire. Campbell’s critics point to a record that, they say, is evidence of a systematic bias against Israel. They adduce a welter of charges. Here are some of them: Campbell voted to slash foreign aid against Israel. He was also soft on Sami Al-Arian. Campbell accepted a $1,300 donation for his 2000 Senate campaign from Al-Arian. In 2006 Arian pleaded guilty to aiding terrorism. The Los Angeles Times states that Campbell, who was then the business school dean at UC Berkeley, “wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made.” Campbell didn’t support making Jerusalem the capital of Israel. So far, about the only thing Campbell has not been accused of is refusing to don a kippah upon entering a synagogue.
One of Campbell’s public defenders and supporters observes, “on the basis of Campbell’s proven public record, such aspersions seem to have arrived from somewhere outside the space-time continuum, in some outer dimension created by wild and unchecked oppo research.” The defender is David Frum of the indispensable “FrumForum.” Frum, as ardent a supporter of Israel as there ever was, notes, among other things, that the sum that Campbell voted against in the foreign-aid bill was a mere pittance. Campbell didn’t want funds for Africa to be reduced. Furthermore, George W. Bush himself posed with a picture with Al-Arian and Campbell says he was unaware of his terrorist connections. But as Frum notes, Campbell’s detractors have produced new allegations, among them that he has lauded Alison Weir, the head of “If Americans Knew,” which can justly be described as anti-Israel. Campbell says his praise of Weir was offered years ago and that “I never stated agreement with any statement made by Alison Weir.” Frum patiently and forensically goes on to make the case for Campbell’s sympathy for Israel, including the fact that he flew to it on El Al in 1990 and stayed in the King David hotel to show solidarity with Israel as it was attacked by Iraq.